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Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs come back to life in Game 2 to tie series 05.04.13 at 11:40 pm ET
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Phil Kessel scored and beat his old team in Game 2. (AP)

Whether it was jitters, lack of playoff experience, or just an off night that plagued the Maple Leafs in Game 1 against the Bruins, those obstacles appeared to be overcome in Game 2 as they evened the series with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

“We were a little tight, first game,” said Joffrey Lupul, who scored twice for Toronto. “We weren’t executing. We were missing 12-foot passes that NHL players usually don’t miss. We were a little tentative, whether we want to admit it or not. Those nights happen, and it’s how you react. We reacted pretty well tonight.”

The Leafs came back with a steady, opportunistic performance, taking advantage of several defensive miscues by the Bruins after Nathan Horton gave Boston a 1-0 lead in the second period. They took 32 shots after managing just 20 in Game 1, and they earned second and third chances, forcing both Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask to stop multiple shots in a row in one second-period sequence.

But the exclamation point on the Leafs’ improved performance was their third goal, the one that belonged to former Bruin Phil Kessel. Less than a minute into the third period, Kessel was approaching the Bruins’ blue line and looking for a pass that came from Nazem Kadri back in the Leafs’ zone.

Kadri hit him in his stride, and Kessel blew past Dennis Seidenberg to beat Rask five-hole. It was his first even-strength goal in 24 games against the Bruins, silencing the fans who’d chanted his name mockingly earlier, at least for the moment.

“I was happy, obviously,” Kessel said. “It’s been a long time. Felt nice to score. I just got lucky. … I had a couple other chances tonight, and just snuck it past him.”

For most of the game, the Bruins kept Kessel off the board by matching him up with Chara. On that play, though, it was Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk on the ice, neither of whom were anywhere near him by the time he scored.

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Bruins-Leafs ‘should have all the elements of a playoff series [B's] can win’ 05.01.13 at 2:15 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN’s Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ approach to the playoffs, some lineup decisions they’ve made, and how they match up with the Maple Leafs.

Brickley said he would have preferred to see the Bruins face the Islanders in the first round, but he thinks Toronto is a better matchup for them than Ottawa would have been.

“Toronto, they’re a little porous on defense,” Brickley said. “I’m still not sold on [James] Reimer being an elite guy. He’s got no experience, really, when it comes to NHL postseason play. So I think it’s a pretty good matchup. My preference would have been the Islanders, but be careful what you wish for. But it should have all the elements of a playoff series they can win, which is physical play, 5-on-5 hockey. If Toronto wants to initiate, the Bruins will oblige, but I’m looking for the Bruins to initiate.”

Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are slated to play together as the Bruins’ top defensive pairing, although there had been some talk of breaking them up to balance the pairs out more evenly.

“I’m not surprised,” Brickley said of Chara and Seidenberg playing together. “I don’t know if it’s my preference. Toronto, one of their strengths this year is the fact that they have more than one scoring line. You put those guys together and you try to play them against Phil Kessel and his threesome, and they can still hurt you with [Joffrey] Lupul, [Nazem] Kadri. But that’s something they wanted to do. They were committed to it before the season ended. Now it’s up to the other four defensemen that are in the lineup to get the job done on the matchups.”

Brickley said that while Dougie Hamilton looks likely to sit in favor of Wade Redden in Game 1, Hamilton likely will crack the lineup at some point in the playoffs.

“I absolutely think we’ll see Dougie, whether it’s an adjustment or an injury or trying to get a little bit more on your power play,” Brickley said. “They want to get him some playoff experience, no doubt, but it’ll all be determined on how the Bruins play and how healthy they are on the back end.”

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Bruins plagued by missed chances to beat Sens, wrap up division title 04.28.13 at 11:36 pm ET
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The phrase “missed opportunities” has been swirling around the Bruins of late: missed opportunities to wrap up the Northeast Division title over the last few weeks, and, on Sunday, missed opportunities to beat Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner and squeak into the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Bruins had 36 shots on Sunday – 29 through the first two periods – but the shots they missed, or failed to take, stood out. Both Tyler Seguin and Dennis Seidenberg shot high on promising rushes, and Seguin also waited too long to shoot on a previous chance, allowing Ottawa’s defense to get back in position against him. When they did get the puck on net, Lehner or his defensemen usually took care of the rebounds before the Bruins got there for second chances.

“Lots of scoring chances, and when you don’t bury them, eventually the other team comes in and scores,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We let them hang around for too long, and when I say hang around, even when we had a 2-2 game, before that, in the first period, we had lots of good scoring chances and didn’t capitalize.”

Sunday’s game mirrored the last few weeks in a way: the Bruins also let the Canadiens hang around too long in the standings. Despite a 4-6-0 showing in their last 10 games, Montreal eventually finished with 63 points to the Bruins’ 62, wrapping up the second seed in the East while the Bruins finished fourth.

The Bruins went 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, with those only three wins coming against non-playoff teams: the Devils, the Lightning and the Panthers. While the end of the regular season doesn’t always have much bearing on the postseason, the Bruins’ last game before the playoffs certainly reflected some larger issues.

Julien attributed the Bruins’ failure to finish on Sunday to a possible lack of focus. After a game where they didn’t follow through on many rebounds, he also noted that the B’s would have to work harder close to the net to succeed.

“It’s pretty simple. You’ve got to get your nose a little dirtier, and you’ve got to have the confidence to shoot,” Julien said. “We all know that teams that want to get their nose dirty in front of the net during the playoffs are going to get rewarded, so we have the guys that have the ability to do that, and now we’ve got to get them to do it.”

Across the Bruins’ locker room, the refrain on Sunday was that they were happy with the game they played, just not the results they got. Shawn Thornton said he thought the Bruins’ failure to bury the chances they created was a mixture of bad luck and offensive issues, and joked about an unconventional way to turn their fortunes around.

“Probably a bit of both,” Thornton said. “I think there’s been some second opportunities where we maybe didn’t bear down as hard as we could. There’s also some posts and some pucks hopping and some of that stuff too. So I don’t want to dwell on it too much. We’re just going to probably sacrifice a chicken or something.”

Bruins secure first-round date with Toronto after 4-2 loss to Senators 04.28.13 at 9:44 pm ET
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The Bruins failed to secure the Northeast Division title, losing 4-2 to the Senators on a goal by Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the game’s final five minutes.

Although they outshot the Senators, 36-22, and got a goal from Dennis Seidenberg to tie the game early in the third period, the Bruins didn’t follow up on enough of their chances to get the best of Ottawa goalie Robin Lehner. Here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong for the Bruins, who will now face Toronto in the first round of the playoffs.

WHAT WENT WRONG

- The Bruins had 36 shots on Lehner and didn’t score until their 29th. That’s partly a credit to Lehner’s early play, as he had to make some tough saves, but for the most part, especially in the second period, the Bruins didn’t make him work as much as they could have.

Few rebounds were pursued, and after Patrice Bergeron’s and Gregory Campbell‘s lines created some chances on the doorstep in the first, the Bruins didn’t get many looks from close to the net in the second. Ottawa’s defense kept them mostly to the perimeter, making Lehner’s job easier.

- Tyler Seguin had plenty of chances to get on the board, but he couldn’t put them away. Seguin was quick enough to set up a pair of rushes for himself in the second period, but on the first, he waited long enough to shoot that Marc Methot had time to dive back and knock the puck away. On the second, he fired well high of the net with no Senators near him.

Shortly after that miss on the second breakaway, the Senators came back down the ice to score their second goal.

- Although Tuukka Rask might like to have the Sens’ second goal back, it would have been tough for him to do more on the game-winner. Ottawa had possession in the Bruins’ zone for a long time before Marc Methot took a slap shot from the point, which Rask saved. But the rebound wasn’t cleared, and Pageau was in perfect position to put it away.

The Bruins had seven shots in the third period – just five after the first minute.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- After a flat showing on their first power play, the Bruins got a man-advantage goal from Rich Peverley with 3.4 seconds remaining in the second period to make it 2-1.

Wade Redden made the goal happen, getting a pass off cleanly to Peverley even as he absorbed a check. Peverley shot low on Lehner for his sixth goal of the year, his second on the power play.

- The Bruins did manage 36 shots, spending a respectable amount of time in Ottawa’s zone. Through most of the game, holding the puck in the offensive zone for prolonged periods wasn’t an issue – the problem was getting it to the net and following up.

One notable instance where they did get to the front of the net was Kaspars Daugavins‘ chance in the first period, in which he drove through the slot, avoiding Ottawa’s defenders, and got a backhander off that Lehner managed to stop.

- Seidenberg’s goal was his second in his last three games (he also scored on April 25 against the Lightning), and it gave the Bruins a clean slate with 19:46 left to play, although they couldn’t capitalize on that second chance.

Fourth line getting into postseason form for Bruins 04.26.13 at 12:55 am ET
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Daniel Paille

It’s getting to be the time of year when tight games are often decided by players like Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. As the Bruins wrapped up home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning on Thursday, their Merlot Line came through with a goal that solidified the victory, playing the way they’ll likely need to when the postseason begins.

Paille became a 10-goal scorer for the first time since 2009-10 at 13:31 of the second. Campbell found him open at the top of the right circle and sent the puck right into his wheelhouse, setting up Paille to fire a one-timer past Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback.

Paille had three shots and another that was blocked on Thursday, as many as any Bruin. Although they weren’t all over the scoresheet, the fourth line was one of the Bruins’ most energetic, creating chances with an aggressive forecheck and consistently maintaining possession in the Lightning’s zone.

“We know, for our line, if we don’t score it’s not a big deal, but the main goal for us is to create as much energy as we can and it felt like we did that today,” Paille said. “With [Thornton] taking the puck from a couple of guys, and [Campbell] as well, you know, I thought we all contributed in a positive way today, even if we didn’t score.”

Entering Thursday’s game, the trio had a combined 16 goals on the year. They’re not on the ice to score on every shift, but the Bruins will welcome any offensive contributions from them, especially with just two games left in the regular season. And although they haven’t been exempt from the Bruins’ recent line-shuffling, Paille acknowledged that the three of them do always seem to wind up back together.

“We know we’re not going to play a ton of minutes, but we’re happy with who we play with,” Paille said. “And I think that’s a big thing going on the last few years that we’ve been here.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien said he thought that line did its job on Thursday, overcoming some issues it had earlier in the year.

“There’s some confidence there — you know, [Campbell] making that pass and Paille not hesitating, great shot, and the goaltender didn’t have much time to get across,” Julien said. “So overall making the right plays and keeping pucks in down low and battling. And [Thornton], the same thing. Not only that, but they’ve had some challenges at times this year where they weren’t making good line changes and leaving the next line … hanging. But they were sharp in all those areas tonight, so I thought they were good.”

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Tuukka Rask, Bruins blank Lightning to lock up home ice in first round 04.25.13 at 10:05 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask makes one of 30 saves on the night for his 5th shutout of the season. (AP)

Tuukka Rask made all the timely saves a coach could ask for as the Bruins clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Lightning at home on Thursday.

Rask earned his fifth shutout of the season, tying a career high set in the 2009-10 season. Dennis Seidenberg chipped in with his third goal of the year, a slap shot through traffic from the point, and while the Bruins didn’t have a particularly inspiring start to the game, they finished strong, holding off a late Lightning onslaught for the win.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong for the Bruins on Thursday.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

- Rask was sharp from the start and ultimately made 30 saves. Perhaps his most memorable stop came in the second, when he robbed Steven Stamkos on an odd-man rush for the Lightning, sliding across the crease to snatch Stamkos’ wrister out of the air. Shortly afterward, he drew chants of his name from the Garden crowd when he made two impressive kick saves in rapid succession.

Late in the third, with the Bruins maintaining a 2-0 lead, Rask shut down another Lightning rush, stopping Tampa leading scorer Martin St. Louis.

Rask also kept the Bruins in the game when they were being outshot and outworked early in the first period, stopping a number of quality chances from close range. He effectively put his brief but unspectacular outing in Philadelphia, in which he allowed three goals on 13 shots in relief of Anton Khudobin, behind him.

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now’ 04.24.13 at 12:18 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN commentator Andy Brickley joined Mut & Merloni on Wednesday to talk about the Bruins’ turnover issues, how their defensive pairings might look in the playoffs and how Milan Lucic has responded to being benched on Saturday.

Brickley said he saw a number of recurring issues in the Bruins’ 5-2 loss to the Flyers on Tuesday.

“[I was] surprised by the lack of complete-game effort by Boston,” Brickley. “It’s almost an indifference to their game. Not enough meaningful contact, the turnovers were just way too many. And not just by one player or a handful of players — it’s everybody. When they get good penalty-killing, their power play can’t score. When they get a power-play goal, their penalty kill seems to fall by the wayside.

“When they need a save in a close game, they haven’t gotten it lately. And if you’re looking for that Bruin team that we got so used to liking because they had that cockiness and swagger to them and they had tremendous confidence as a team, it’s just not there, plain and simple. This is a team that no matter where they finish, whether it’s second or fourth in the conference, [potential playoff opponents] will have no reservations because the Bruins appear to be very vulnerable right now.”

Turnovers have plagued the Bruins all over the ice as they’ve continued to struggle recently, and Brickley said he thinks that’s their No. 1 issue at the moment.

“The ones that jump out at you are the ones where the defensemen turn the puck over in their own zone, and a scoring chance or a goal happens,” Brickley said. “But turnovers at the offensive blue line, turnovers deep in the offensive zone, bad passes through center ice — usually when you make mistakes like that, it’s your decision-making.

“Is that a result of mental or physical fatigue? If you told me that in the middle of the third week of March, when they were playing 17 games in that month, I’d say, OK, I get that. But not now. This is where fatigue cannot be part of the equation. You have to compartmentalize, totally focus on the job at hand. And what the Bruins really need is for their leaders to lead and their star players to do more. [Zdeno] Chara can be a better player. [Patrice] Bergeron has been awesome all year long, but I’m going to ask him to do even more. I want [Andrew] Ference to stand up, [Dennis] Seidenberg, those are the guys that really play tons of minutes. Those are the guys that have to lead the way.”

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