Twice in as many seasons now, the burly blueliner has wowed the crowd at TD Garden by discharging a low-flying slapper from the red line in the neutral zone and watching it tune the mesh in the opposing cage.
And the nature of these goals, which logically should only occur if choreographed ahead of time, is only growing exponentially more mind-boggling. Roughly 14 months ago, amid what would become an 8-2 throttling of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Seidenberg lured goaltender Mike Smith out of position when he mimed a hard dump-in along the near wall.
The gaping net thus created by Smith’s knee-jerk response, presumably inching his way into the trapezoid to play the expected dump-in, almost made for the equivalent of an empty-netter. But if Seidenberg had hesitated for even a millisecond on his homeward-bound stab, Smith may have had time to dive back and smother it.
Instead, Seidenberg concocted a near-perfect formula of wit, promptness and precision. The result was a lead expanded to 2-0 within the final minute of the opening frame, which might have spelled the difference in Boston’s eventual 8-2 runaway.
On Tuesday night, Seidenberg one-upped himself in the way of style and substance. With a 3-3 deadlock at hand after teammates Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand deleted a two-goal deficit, he made a play reminiscent of Dave Christian’s dump-in that amounted to Mark Johnson’s last-second equalizer in the Miracle on Ice game.
The only difference here was that Seidenberg was Christian and Johnson, two in one. Neither he nor any of his Bruins teammates needed to hustle after a rebound, for Ottawa stopper Craig Anderson left none.
Instead, Anderson’s failure to respond to the 90-foot saucer that eluded three back-checking bodies granted Boston a 4-3 advantage with 12:51 to spare in regulation.
When that score turned to stone, the Bruins had improved to 6-8-1 when trailing after the second period and improved their league-best third-period scoring differential to 71-33. The Senators are equally prolific in the closing frame with an identical 71 goals, but remember that Boston has five games in hand.
Perhaps more tellingly, Seidenberg’s strike was the 56th third-period goal to penetrate a Senators stopper this season. And the team with the best chance to catch the Bruins at the summit of the Northeast Division happens to be one of only four NHL squads allowing an average of three goals or more per night.
The nature of Tuesday’s game and the goal that decided it spoke to Ottawa’s raggedy defense and netminding, for sure. But from a Boston standpoint, it unveiled a previously missing asset, namely the determination to exploit less titanic adversaries and their jutting weaknesses.
When Seidenberg opted to half-shoot, half-dump the puck, he beat a habitually flimsy Anderson as well as a less-than-sufficiently-alert Matt Carkner. The Ottawa defenseman was in the middle of the Broadway lane when Seidenberg wound up and could have blocked or redirected the bid with more mental and physical quickness.
Instead, the Bruins pounced on their opportunity to recompense another uncharacteristically spotty first 40 minutes of their own and assured themselves a split of their six-game series with the Senators.