OTTAWA - Alex Auld did all he could, but the shadow of Craig Anderson loomed too large over the Ottawa Senators.
Auld made 37 saves in a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. It was Ottawa's first game without starter Anderson, who is out indefinitely after cutting his hand Wednesday night, and it was evident the team wasn't sure how to deal with the change in goal.
Auld is the likely candidate to take over in goal during Anderson's absence and while he looked nervous to start the game he got better as time wore on.
"I felt good, but it wasn't enough," said Auld. "I think it's a good step. I think obviously I can just worry about myself and the way I play and the way I prepare.
"I felt good in the game and it was nice to see a lot of shots, it's probably the most I've had all year, but you also play to win and you want to win games against teams you're chasing."
Trailing 4-1 midway through the third things looked all but over for Ottawa, but Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson scored twice less than two minutes apart with just over two minutes remaining to make it a one-goal game.
The Senators desperately battled for the equalizer, but Patrice Bergeron, with his second of the night, scored into an empty net to secure the victory for the Bruins.
Brad Marchand, Carter Camper and David Krejci also scored for Boston (37-20-3), which moved five points ahead of the Senators in the Northeast Division with three games in hand.
Tim Thomas stopped 27 shots to extend his unbeaten streak at Scotiabank Place to nine games.
Erik Karlsson also scored for Ottawa (32-23-8), which had their four-game win streak snapped. Jason Spezza picked up his 600th career point on Alfredsson's first goal.
"We put a good push in the third period, but obviously the first two periods we're not too pleased," said Alfredsson.
"Credit to them for playing real solid. I didn't think we moved the puck quick enough and therefore we couldn't get them back in their end and so we were forced to play a lot of time in our own end and it's tough to get goals that way."
Karlsson opened the scoring at 1:10 of the first with his 14th goal of the season. But Boston countered with Bergeron's first of the game at 3:36 before Marchand put the Bruins ahead 2-1 at 16:13 with his 22nd goal of the season.
"We got the start we were looking for, but then they score pretty quick after I lose a battle in our end and then they get a rebound and score," said Alfredsson. "If we can hold on there maybe we can get our legs going, but that kind of gave them some momentum."
Camper made it 3-1 for Boston with his first goal of the season at 3:57 of the second before Krejci put Boston ahead 4-1 on the power play at 10:24 of the third.
"I was really pleased with the way we played in the second," said Boston's Zdeno Chara. "Usually we don't have such a good second period, but (Saturday) we had a really strong one."
Chara and Ottawa's Chris Neil fought midway through the third as Chara defended teammate Johnny Boychuk, who had the wind knocked out of him after being hit by Neil earlier in the period.
"He made a really nice big hit, it was clean, and that's part of the game, but also part of the game is sticking up for teammates and doing what you have to do," said Chara. "He didn't need to fight me, but I appreciate it."
The two teams meet again Tuesday in Boston.
NOTES: The Senators were minus Anderson, centres Peter Regin (shoulder, out for season) and Jesse Winchester (concussion, indefinite). Defenceman Brian Lee and centre Zenon Konopka were both a healthy scratch. The Bruins were without centre Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome, indefinite), right-winger Nathan Horton (concussion, indefinite) and centre Rich Peverley (knee, four-to-six weeks) and left-winger Shawn Thornton (sick, day-to-day). Defenceman Andrew Bodnarchuk was a healthy scratch.