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Hat trick: Statement made?

03.30.10 at 11:05 pm ET
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It’s all right, Bruins fans. You can say that you thought Tuukka Rask would have bested Martin Brodeur in the shootout had another 19 seconds passed.

Goaltending — and a relentlessly irritating Bruins offense — took center stage Tuesday night as Patrice Bergeron notched the game-winner in the final minute of overtime to give the Bruins a 1-0 win over New Jersey. The way Brodeur was giving up rebounds and the way the Bruins seemed to just miss capitalizing on them time and time again, it was perfectly fitting that the game ended in the Bruins’ assistant captain collecting the change on a Mark Stuart shot from the point to give Boston a very important two points.

While the Bruins only got on the board once, their peppering of Brodeur (34 shots on goal) provided all the offense necessary to get past one of the game’s all-time greats.

Coming off the win, the Bruins remain in possession of the eighth and final playoff bid in the Eastern Conference. With a game in hand on the Thrashers, a playoff berth is the Bruins’ to lose. Just as interestingly, having played as many games with as many points (76 GP, 82 points), as the Canadiens and Flyers, a sixth seed and potential matchup with the Sabers rather than the Capitals remains in their grasp.

Here is the hat trick of lessons learned in a well-deserved win in which the Bruins defense allowed just 21 shots on goal in nearly 65 minutes:

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Read More: ilya kovalchuk, Martin Brodeur, Patrice Bergeron, Tim Thomas

Rask, Bergeron burn Devils

03.30.10 at 9:38 pm ET
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Summary – Patrice Bergeron beat Martin Brodeur with 19 seconds left in overtime to give the Bruins two badly need points on Tuesday night.

On a night that Tuukka Rask seemed destined to be the hero, Bergeron stole the show after Rask was reinserted into the starting lineup, shut out the Devils, and strengthened his hold atop the list of goals against average.

Daniel Seidenberg and Michael Ryder both failed to secure possession for the Bruins in the midst of a rare flurry from the Devils in the final 30 seconds of regulation, but when the clock read 0:00 both Rask and Martin Brodeur had their shutouts intact.

The Devils appeared to be a lost cause offensively through the first two periods, mustering just 11 shots on Rask entering the third period, but back-to-back Bruins’ minor penalties, the Devils showed more life in the Bruins’ zone despite still not managing many shots. With Matt Hunwick in the box for a delay of game, Zach Parise made it 4-on-4. The teams swapped brief opportunities until the penalties expired, with the Devils coming the closest they would come to getting on the board second later.

David Clarkson nearly made it 1-0 Devils when he beat Tukka Rask glove-side but dinged his wrist-shot off the post. The third-period opportunity wasn’t Clarkson’s only flirtation with the scoreboard, as Brian Rolston skipped one past him in the second period on what would have been a solid scoring chance.

Ryder, in the midst of a cold streak, had the Bruins’ best opportunity to end it regulation when he beat two New Jersey defenders in the third period before being robbed on the goal line by an impressive display buy a sprawling Brodeur.

Rask handled surge from the Devils in the extra five minutes, stopping Parise on a 2-on-2 with about three and a half minutes in overtime. It as one of the Devils’ few legitimate scoring opportunities of the night.

Ilya Kovalchuk was positively brutal for the Devils. The play by the Bruins defense deserves much of the credit for the struggles the Devils encountered, but it seemed that whenever Kovalchuk found himself on the cusp of making a play he either made the wrong pass or forget the teams were playing with blue lines. He could have atoned for his lackluster play with about two minutes to go in overtime but fired one right at the chest of Rask for an easy save.

Three Stars

Tuukka Rask – Shutout makes it less likely Tim Thomas will be seeing back to back starts again for the rest of the season.

Patrice Bergeron – Made the game’s lone goal a memorable one.

Martin Brodeur – Handled plenty of tough shots from the Bruins and was equally as impressive as Rask in a 33-save performance.

Key play – Bergeron’s game-winner. Mark Recchi and Mark Stuart got the assists on the rebound from the stick side of the very busy Brodeur.

Turning point – Brodeur’s save on Ryder’s deke. It signified that the Bruins couldn’t beat Brodeur with anything but consistent pestering, which was proven in the extra five minutes.

Read More: Bruins, Devils,

Second period summary: Bruins vs. Devils

03.30.10 at 8:30 pm ET
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The scoring sheet dictates that it’s been a clean game thus far, but at this rate the Bruins stand to capitalize on how sloppy the Devils have been.

Neither team has seen a player head to the penalty box thus far in a game the Bruins have continued to play well defensively in. The Devils seem more disruptive towards their own offense than toward that of the Bruins. In addition to struggling to stay onside multiple times and lacking shots on goal (just 11 through two), Ilya Kovalchuk absolutely killed a chance in the seventh minute, forgoing a clear shot at Rask for an ill-advised and zone-clearing pass to defensemen Paul Martin.

Former Bruin Brian Rolston wound up ahead of the pack on a bouncing puck along the boards in the Bruins’ zone but put too much mustard on a pass in front of the net to Clarkson, clearing the zone before eventually regaining and blasting a slapshot that was picked out of the air by Rask with just under four and a half minutes to play.

Though the Bruins continue to provide plenty of offensive pressure, they remain unable to capitalize, as a rebound from a low Mark Recchi shot bounced nearly all the way to the point before anyone touched it. Many of the Bruins’ 22 shots have been low on Brodeur, including one from Michael Ryder, in the midst of a cold streak. No. 73 had a solid opportunity on the doorstep about five minutes into the period that Brodeur held onto.

After two periods the Bruins are outshooting the Devils, 22-11.

Read More: Bruins, Devils,

First period summary: Bruins vs. Devils

03.30.10 at 7:45 pm ET
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The first period between the Bruins and Devils at the Prudential Center was highlighted by strong defense and sporadic yet unsuccessful offensive flurries. The Bruins ended the period with a 13-6 shots on goal advantage and had a handful of realistic opportunities against Devils netminder Martin Brodeur.

The period featured bookend scoring chances for the Bruins. Mark Stuart rang one off the post just over a minute into the period and Steve Begin was robbed in a scrum in front of the net with two and a half to go in a flurry that also featured a bid from Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron.

With just under nine minutes to go in the period, Marco Sturm and Mark Recchi were denied of a potential juicy rebound when Brodeur lost his balance saving a wrister from the stick of Dennis Wideman despite a screen from Bergeron.

Each goaltender displayed subpar stickwork with about six and a half minutes remaining in the period. Shortly after Brodeur mishandled the puck in a way reminiscent of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Tuukka Rask was nearly caught playing out the puck out of his net before taking out Dean McAmmond himself.

Read More: Bruins, Devils,

Miller on Thomas: ‘It’s unfortunate’

03.30.10 at 1:45 am ET
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Don’t for a second think that Ryan Miller wasn’t happy when Tim Kennedy’s flukey wrist shot floated and fluttered past Tim Thomas at 6:08 of the second period to put the Sabres up, 3-1 against the Bruins.

But that doesn’t mean Miller couldn’t have at least a little compassion for a fellow goalie, with whom he came within an eyelash of winning a gold medal against Team Canada in Vancouver.

Tim Thomas was the goalie to allow that Kennedy score and it was Thomas who had to listen to the boos of fans as he skated off the ice, past the Bruins bench and down the hallway to take out his frustration on the cement walls on either side with his goalie stick which was betraying him on this night.

“I think it is unfortunate,” Miller said of the boos Thomas received. “It has been a tough season and fans in this town are tough. It’s the same as it is in Buffalo. We have had some tough seasons and I have left the ice under duress a few times. It is part of being a goaltender. You are not always going to have things go your way. You have to hang with it and be a good teammate. I know Timmy is doing the right stuff. He is a battler and it is just not going the way he wants it to right now.”

It was the sixth time this season and the sixth time in 28 starts that Thomas has been replaced in the middle of a game, which is one of the loneliest feelings any athlete in any sport can experience.

“You don’t like to see it,” Miller added. “We are competitive to a certain degree. I know he is a little frustrated but I don’t know if there was a whole lot he could do on at least two of those goals. I think if you asked him about the second one he would want to control the rebound differently.”

The first goal Thomas allowed – by Tyler Myers – was through a heavy screen, and he didn’t see the puck until it changed direction through Dennis Wideman and went past him for the tying goal. The second goal was the result of a bad rebound that Wideman failed to clear, which was picked up by Paul Gaustad and backhanded past Thomas to give the Sabres the lead for good.

“Again I think that was Tyler making a hard shot cross body. Tyler has a hard shot; he’s a big kid. Knocking down one of his wrist shots is all about you can do.”

The last straw came at 6:08 of the second when Tim Kennedy collected a loose puck to the left of Thomas and flicked it toward the net. Thomas appeared to get fooled by the lack of strength behind the shot, overplayed it and allowed it to flutter past him for a 3-1 Sabres lead.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Ryan Miller, Sabres

Bruins cannot hold off Sabres stampede

03.29.10 at 9:27 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins could not hold back the Sabres’ stampede in a 3-2 loss Monday night at TD Garden. Ryan Miller got the win for Buffalo with 40 saves while Tim Thomas took the loss by allowing three goals on 13 shots before getting pulled for Tuukka Rask in the second period.

The Bruins had a chance early in the first period when Marco Sturm took a pass from Patrice Bergeron through the neutral zone with a step on Craig Rivet for a breakaway. Rivet hooked Sturm, and the three of them went crashing into the net, with Sturm being awarded a penalty shot. But Miller stuffed Sturm at 3:20 to shut down a key opportunity.

David Krejci continued his great play of late as he extended his point streak to four games when he schooled Miller at 7:43 in the first. Krejci found himself with space in front of the net and circled Miller to almost the goal line before putting the puck off the goaltender’s skate for the first goal of the game.

The Sabres came back with two unanswered strikes in the period, both of which deflected off some part of Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman on the way past Thomas. The first came on a shot from the point by Tyler Myers that went through Wideman’s arms for the redirection at 9:56 to tie the game. The Sabres then went up a goal a few minutes later when Paul Gaustad picked up a rebound n the slot and backhanded it towards the net, sending it off Wideman’s skate in the process to make it 2-1.

Buffalo made it a two-goal game at 6:40 in the second when Tim Kennedy took a shot from the corner of the crease that hit Thomas in the chest but rebounded into the crease where it slipped across the goal line. That was the night for Thomas, as coach Claude Julien sent in Rask for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.

Boston made it a one-goal game at 14:23 in the third period when Dennis Seidenberg pulled up on the rush and rocketed a slap shot from the point on Miller that the goaltender could not contain as it popped off his pads, over his shoulder and into the goal.

Three Stars

Ryan Miller — The starting goaltender for the USA Olympic team bested his backup by a fair margin in making 40 stops en route to his 38th win of the year.

Tyler Myers — The defenseman scored the Sabres’ first goal of the game and assisted on the second.

David Krejci — The Bruins center continued his hot play by scoring the first goal of the game and has a four-game point streak with three goals and four assists for seven points in that span.

Turning Point — One time could be a fluke but twice makes a trend, one that the Bruins would have been happy to avoid. The second goal that went off Wideman past Thomas came off of Gaustad’s backhander at 9:56 in the first. The ire of the fans will go to Wideman but the goal was set up after a shot from Myers that Thomas let slip into the slot, where the Sabres center was waiting.

Key Play — The weak goal was what did Thomas in. Kennedy had a point-blank opportunity on Thomas but did not have the angle to beat the goaltender. Thomas, however, ended up beating himself as he bobbled the rebound and let it slip behind him into the net. That giveaway brought Rask from the bench to the crease to take over the net-minding responsibilities.

Read More: Dennis Seidenberg, Dennis Wideman, Paul Gaustad, Ryan Miller

Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres

03.29.10 at 8:42 pm ET
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One game after recording his fifth shutout of the season and his 17th career, Tim Thomas was pulled after allowing his third goal on just 14 shots. It was the sixth time this season he has been lifted from a game.

The off night for Thomas has put the Bruins in a 3-1 hole after two periods.

Thomas allowed a soft wrister from Tim Kennedy at 6:08 and he came off the ice, made his way down the tunnel, swinging his goalie stick in frustration. He remained away from the bench for about five minutes before returning.

In fairness to Thomas, he was again let down by his defense who had trouble clearing bodies. Tuukka Rask was tested late in the period as breakdowns continued to thwart the B’s.

Jason Pominville had a short-handed breakaway with just 63 seconds left in the second period as the Bruins, desperate for some energy from their power play, pinched early and left Pominville alone in the neutral zone.

Boos rained down on the Bruins, who will begin the final period with 13 seconds of power play.

Each team had 14 shots on net in the second, with Boston holding a 28-25 advantage after 40 minutes.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Ryan Miller, Sabres
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