|04.11.10 at 12:44 pm ET|
They are playing for pride in this one.
Neither the Bruins or the Capitals can improve their playoff positioning in the regular season finale on Sunday. Washington wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference long ago while the Bruins are stuck in the sixth slot with 89 points after the Canadiens lost in overtime to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
But the game will still be played and Boston is looking to not get swept by Washington this season, having dropped the first three games in the series with a combined score of 11-4.
It did not look promising early for the Bruins as Alexander Semin beat Tim Thomas at 2:23 with a snap shot that the reigning Vezina Trophy winner could not corral to give the Caps the early 1-0 lead.
Boston came back at 5:29 when Milan Lucic fought hard for the puck for the behind Washington goaltender Semyon Varlamov and backhanded a pretty pass in front to the stick of Michael Ryder who went back across Varlamov for his 17th goal of the year. Zach Hamill, Boston’s first round pick (No. 8 overall), who is making his NHL debut, got the secondary assist on the goal for his first NHL point.
Ryder, who had not scored since March 16 against Carolina, broke another bad Bruins streak when he snapped their scoreless power play funk at 0 for 22 at 14:55 after Alexander Ovechkin went to the box for high sticking at 14:27.
The Bruins could not hold the lead for long though as the Capitals came back with a goal 19-seconds later when Eric Belanger beat Thomas with a wrist shot at 15:14 to tie the game at two.
That is where it stands heading into the second. Washington leads the Bruins in shots by the slimmest of margins, 9-8.
|04.10.10 at 5:29 pm ET|
Every fan inside TD Garden on Saturday was pretty safe thinking they had seen it all when the Bruins set a new NHL record by scoring three short-handed goals in one minor penalty. After all, it had never happened in the history of the league.
Then Blake Wheeler tried to find Michael Ryder in the offensive zone and missed. No problem, except for the fact the puck banked off the boards at center ice and carmoned down the ice toward Boston’s vacated net after Tuukka Rask headed off for an extra skater on a delayed power play.
“I was trying to find a second speed somehow and talk to that puck to slow down because it was going pretty fast.” Bergeron said.
He got his stick on it just before it crossed the line and emotional disaster was averted. Instead of the Bruins getting tied up, 3-3, on the flukiest of goals, they maintained their 3-2 advantage and held on a 4-2 playoff-clinching win.
“I had to keep going, the puck actually took some speed I think,” Bergeron said. “It was going pretty fast there and as soon as I turned around I realized it was probably going to go in. It was going right for the net so I started going as fast as I could.”
And now Bergeron and the Bruins can finally think about the playoffs.
“Yeah, it’s a big relief,” Bergeron said. “We always knew we could do it and you wait 81 games just to get there and it means a lot to us, obviously. We can look forward now. We know that anything can happen in the playoffs as long as you get in. After that, it’s up in the air and you just have to be ready and play your game.”
Blake Wheeler expressed his relief afterward and gratitude toward Bergeron.
|04.10.10 at 3:24 pm ET|
Summary — Boston used a miraculous shorthanded burst to start the second period to put away the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2 in a Saturday matinee game at TD Garden to finally earn a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Tuukka Rask got the win for the Bruins with 33 saves while Cam Ward was solid for the entire game except the first two minutes of the second period to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill to start the second period (Hunwick, hooking 19:42 of first) in a span of 1:04.l Daniel Paille was the first to crack the board when took the puck through Ward’s crease, pivot-turned and fired back on net at :32 to make it 1-0 Boston.
Blake Wheeler got in on the action next when he found a rebound off the stick of David Krejci in the slot in front Ward at 1:21. Wheeler banged it back into the net for the two-goal advantage. Paille’s fellow penalty killer, Steve Begin, decided that he would turn it into a troika 15-seconds later when he shot from the right face off circle with enough vigor that Ward could not contain it and it bounced off his chest pads, over his shoulder and into the net at 1:36.
It was the first time since 1985 and perhaps that Boston has had two goals on a penalty kill and perhaps the only time in history where they have done it three times. The 1:04 it took to score the goals was the fastest that it has been done all season and the fastest three goals for the Bruins since :52 on Dec. 20, 2001 against Montreal.
But the game was not done there just because the Bruins did something spectacular. Carolina clawed back to make it a contest, starting when Erik Cole picked up his 10th of the season by knocking down Rask’s door right in front of the crease at 14:30 in the second. Patrick Dwyer would make it a one-goal game three minutes later when he skated through the slot and went back against the grain on Rask with a wrist shot to make it 3-2 at 17:30.
Boston came out of the gates hot in the first period as they rained 10 shots on Ward in the first five minutes but were unable to crack the goaltender in the opening frame. The momentum see-sawed back to Carolina later in the period as the Canes took their chances on Rask to try and even the shot count and getting close at 18-14 at the start of the second.
Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal with a minute left for the final tally.
The game was an official sellout, the 24th consecutive official sellout for the team this year and 25th overall (counting the Winter Classic at Fenway). The last non-sellout for the Bruins was on Dec. 2, 2009 against Tampa Bay.
Daniel Paille — The forward has been Boston’s spark on the penalty kill all season and was rewarded during the last home game of the year as he and his fellow shorthanded mates broke through in spectacular fashion. In addition to scoring the first goal he added a secondary assist to Begin’s strike.
Steve Begin — In an ode to the Bruins great year of penalty killing, Begin earned his 100th NHL point with his goal and teamed with Paille to kill all the Hurricanes power play chances.
Blake Wheeler — The young forward broke out of a scoring slump for his 18th of the year. Wheeler had not scored since March 15 against the Devils.
Turning Point — Who would have thought that the Bruins would turn on a penalty AGAINST them? Matt Hunwick took a slashing call at the 19:42 mark of the first period, thus giving the Hurricanes a man-advantage to start the second. Boston then turned around and scored three goals to start the second for all the offense they would need to win the game and clinch a playoff spot.
Key Play — A Boston opportunity almost turned into a disaster in the third period. Carolina’s Jerome Samson was going to be called for a high-sticking penalty but the Hurricanes had not gained possession of the puck. The delayed penalty meant that the Bruins could pull Rask for an extra attacker, thus leaving the net empty. An errant back pass by the Bruins bounced off the wall in neutral zone and straight at the empty net, a goal that would be the game-tying striking if it crossed the plain. Patrice Bergeron gathered a head of steam and chased the puck down, catching it right as it as about to go across the line and whip-clearing it back down the left wing out of danger. The play was reviewed to make sure that the puck did not indeed cross the line and the verdict of no-goal was upheld.
|04.10.10 at 2:47 pm ET|
You do not see that everyday. Or, well, ever.
Boston came of the dressing room to start the second period and decided to just flat out set Cam Ward on fire. It scored three goals in 1:04, tallied by Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler and Steve Begin, in that order at :32, 1:21 and 1:36.
Oh, and all of them came on the penalty kill.
Paille got the first on a hustle play when he found took a zone-clearing pass from Zdeno Chara and kept his legs moving down the right wing, marching straight to and through Ward’s crease, turning back and firing to give the animated TD Garden crowd something to cheer about. It was Paille’s 10th of the season.
Before the public address announcer could finish telling the crowd the details of Paille’s goal, Wheeler found a rebound in the slot off of a David Krejci shot that he banged back home to make it 2 -0. Steve Begin wanted in on the party after that and found the puck on the right circle and shot into Ward’s chest protector. The goaltender could not put it down and it bounced over his pads into the net to make an already jubilant crowd absolutely giddy.
A couple notes on the three shorted-handed goals:
3 — The total of short-handed goals that the Bruins had all season before three in the same penalty kill.
1:04 — Fastest the Bruins have scored three goals this season and fastest three goals the team has scored since :52 on Dec. 20, 2001 against the Canadiens. The fastest the Bruins have scored three this season was on Dec. 23 against Atlanta in 1:08.
25 – Years since it has been that Boston has scored multiple goals on the same penalty kill after scoring two against Toronto on Jan. 9, 1985.
Carolina went on the power play again at 12:18 when Milan Lucic went for a trip. Neither team was able to tally on this penalty though it did give Carolina some momentum as Erik Cole would be Tuukka Rask on the doorstep of his crease to make it 3-1 at 14:30.
The Canes then cut the lead to one at 17:06 when Patrick Dwyer put up his seventh of the season when he crossed through the slot and went back against the grain with a wrist shot to beat Rask far side and make the game a contest once again.
Boston had a power play at 17:20 when Carolina center Eric Staal took at slashing penalty. The Bruins can apparently score at will when they are a man down but are utterly impotent while a man up as yet another power play fizzled out. Boston is now 0 for its last 20 man-advantage opportunities and 3 for their last 46.
|04.10.10 at 1:58 pm ET|
Alright, let’s break this down as simply as we can.
-The Bruins can clinch a playoff spot with a point against either Carolina or Washington.
-The Bruins can clinch the No. 6 seed with a Montreal loss against Toronto on Saturday night and a combination of two points against the Hurricanes and Capitals (a win or two overtime points).
– The Bruins can clinch the No. 7 seed with a combination of two points combined with a Canadiens win.
-The Bruins can clinch the No. 8 seed with a single point on Saturday or Sunday and the Rangers/Flyers games does not go into overtime.
– The Bruins would take the N0. 8 seed with two losses only if Sunday’s Ranger/Flyers game does not go into overtime earning the loser a point.
-The Bruins would not make the playoffs with two losses and the Rangers/Flyers game on Sunday does go into overtime.
Right now the Bruins and Canadiens each have 87 points. Montreal holds the tie-breaker because they have more wins and also won the head-to-head season series. The Rangers and Flyers have 86 points apiece and play each other in Philadelphia on Sunday. Boston would lose any tie-breaker against the four remaining teams because they would end up with fewer wins.
|04.10.10 at 1:43 pm ET|
|04.10.10 at 1:29 pm ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien was cautioning against counting any playoff berths before they’re clinched prior to Saturday afternoon’s matinee with the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden. With a win, the Bruins clinch a playoff spot and no worse than a No. 7 seed in the East and avoid the Washington Capitals in the first round.
[Click here to listen to Julien’s pregame comments.]
“We’re not there yet,” Julien said. “This is an opportunity for us to control our own destiny. For me, we need to take care of business today. It’s as simple as that. We need to be ready to go. And hopefully we are.”
Meanwhile, Julien said defenseman Mark Stuart is still more than a few days away from returning to action after surgery to treat a finger infection. Tuukka Rask starts in net for the Bruins. Should the Bruins not clinch today, they finish up the season on Sunday afternoon in Washington against the Capitals.
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