Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson said he’s always wanted to face the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs.
Or was he just trying to avoid the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins?
“We talked about mostly finishing better than last year,” Alfredsson said after the Senators beat Boston 4-2 in the NHL’s rescheduled regular-season finale on Sunday night to earn the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We were eighth last year, so to win here the last game and finish seventh it feels really good. We improved on last year, and that’s what we wanted.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:34 to play, and Kyle Turris added an empty-netter to help Ottawa win the game that was originally scheduled for April 15, the day of the Boston Marathon bombings.
It was the only NHL game on Sunday, with the rest of the league wrapping up the regular season by Saturday.
The victory pushed the Senators past the New York Islanders and into seventh in the East, helping them avoid the Penguins in the first round.
Ottawa opens the series in Montreal on Thursday.
“I think it will be a great series,” Alfredsson said. “The Bell Centre is one of the most exciting buildings to play in. It’s a great hockey town as well. … I think it’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere in both arenas, and I’m looking forward to a hard-fought series.”
The Islanders will face Pittsburgh in the first round. The Bruins could have won the Northeast Division and earned a No. 2 seed with a win, but they finished fourth in the East and will play Toronto in the first round starting Wednesday in Boston.
“We wanted to win tonight to clinch the division,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Now it doesn’t matter. We have to move forward for the playoffs.”
Boston has not faced the Maple Leafs in the postseason since the first round of the 1974 playoffs. It is the only matchup of Original Six teams in the first round.
“You want to get the No. 2 spot, but at the end it doesn’t matter,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who scored just 14 seconds into the third period to tie it 2-all.
“We still have home ice advantage in the first round, and the first round is always the toughest one to get out of. Everything else doesn’t matter now.”
Robin Lehner stopped 34 shots for the Senators, who had not beaten Boston in their previous 14 tries.
Tuukka Rask made 18 saves for Boston, which had won two straight division titles. He was pulled with about a minute left, but the Bruins couldn’t muster any pressure before Turris’ empty-netter with 37 seconds to play.
Pageau also assisted on Erik Condra’s goal that made it 1-0 with 3 minutes left in the first period. Jared Cowen scored midway through the second to give Ottawa a 2-0 lead.
But the Bruins scored twice in 18 seconds of clock time — on Rich Peverley’s goal with 3.4 seconds left in the second period and again on Seidenberg’s goal 14 seconds into the third.
It was still tied when Pageau swept a rebound past Rask to give the Senators a 3-2 lead. The Bruins couldn’t manage any pressure with Rask pulled for the final minute, and Ottawa clinched on Turris’ empty-netter.
The Bruins handed out their regular-season awards before the game: Patrice Bergeron was the recipient of the Eddie Shore Award for hustle and determination and the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy for outstanding performance during home games. Gregory Campbell earned the John P. Bucyk Award for off-ice charitable contributions, and the three stars went to Rask (first), Bergeron (second) and Tyler Seguin (third). … The rescheduled game almost had to be bumped back when the Celtics’ 1 p.m. game went into overtime. But the Bull Gang got the basketball floor off the ice in time for the 7 p.m. start. … All four Northeast Division teams to make the playoffs are facing each other. … The Senators have never faced Montreal in the playoffs since joining the NHL in 1992.