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Bruins foil Sabres, take step closer to playoffs 04.08.10 at 9:35 pm ET
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Summary — Boston took a big step towards the playoffs on Thursday with a 3-1 win over the Sabres at TD Garden. Boston now leads the idle Rangers by three points for the final playoff spot as each team has two games in the regular season.

Tuukka Rask got the start for the Bruins and was his usual solid self in turning away 31 shots for the victory. The Bruins may have thought they had dodged a bullet when Buffalo started backup goaltender Patrick Lalime over All-Star Ryan Miller but he backstop was solid and contributed to Boston’s goal-scoring frustration with a steady 31 saves in the loss.

Dennis Wideman got the game-winner for Boston at 1:59 in the third period with a blast from the point that had eyes through Lalime towards the back of the net. It was Wideman’s sixth of the year.

The Bruins found a familiar refrain at 11:00 in the first period. Wideman could not control the puck off the wall in neutral ice and lost it for a breakaway by Derek Roy. The defenseman could not recover and Roy had an easy time picking his spot, high glove side, against Rask for the opening goal of the game.

Boston came back early in the second. Miroslav Satan found himself in a small scrum on the half wall in the Bruins offensive zone against two Sabres and lost control of the puck but got enough stick on it to keep it live. David Krejci circled around from behind the goal line to keep the puck in play, hit a touch pass to back to Satan who skated into Lalime’s crease and put a backhander home at 2:15.

Zdeno Chara [Mark Recchi] gave the Bruins the breathing-room goal late in the third period on a one-time blast from the corner on a pass from Milan Lucic at the left point that deflected off of Recchi and  overpowered Lalime at to make it 3-1 at 16:35.

Three Stars

Miroslav Satan — The veteran forward tied the game in the second period with his ninth of the season for the Bruins.

Derek Roy — The Sabres center was pesky presence all night and was rewarded for his efforts in the first period when he plundered Wideman and took his booty to the net to beat Rask for the opening goal of the game.

Tuukka Rask — the statistical league leading netminder did his thing in shutting down the Sabres to keep the Bruins in the game and give them a position to claim points to be applied to their playoff pursuit.

Turning Point — When Wideman redeemed himself early in the third. He stood up a little short of the right point and time his shot perfectly with the screening body of Blake Wheeler to catch Lalime in a blind moment for his sixth of the season and game-winning goal.

Key Play — A lot of good Rask saves to choose from. One of the most important was a point blank shot from Sabres’ forward Tyler Ennis that was unleashed two feet in front of the crease that Rask stoned cold with a little more than a minute to play in the second period. Had Ennis been able to score and Buffalo entered the third period with a goal lead, the dynamic of the final frame would have been much different as Boston would have had a more aggressive (riskier) offensive attack as opposed to playing tighter defense with the lead.

UPDATE — There was a scoring change on the Bruins third goal after the game with the tally being awarded to forward Mark Recchi on a deflection from Chara’s shot. The goal was Recchi’s 18th of the year.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, David Krejci, Dennis Wideman, Derek Roy
First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres at 7:49 pm ET
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Again the Bruins came out with energy in the first period.

And again they had several chances to capitalize on the power play.

And once again, they head to the dressing room scratching their collective heads as to why they’re down, 1-0, after 20 minutes.

The last time they played, Dennis Wideman took a high sticking penalty in the first 24 seconds of overtime and it led to the game-winner in overtime for Washington.

Tonight, he mishandles a puck at the left point, leading to a turnover and a Derek Roy goal at 11:00. Roy skated in on Tuukka Rask and beat him blocker side, up top for the game’s only score.

The Bruins had three power plays, and in keeping with recent trends, could do nothing with them. They have now gone six games without a power play – an 0-for-15 stretch. They have scored just three man-advantage goals in their last 16 games, going 3-for-41, or 7.3 percent. Not exactly the stuff of playoff hockey teams.

All three of those goals came against Calgary on March 27 at TD Garden.

The Bruins outshot the Sabres, 10-6, in the first period.

Read More: Bruins, Dennis Wideman, NHL, Sabres
Getting behind the Rask 04.06.10 at 1:54 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins had a light practice at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday after returning from Washington the night before. Everything seems copacetic around the team in this final week of the season — the B’s are three points above the playoff demarcation line with three games to play and have a distinct advantage over the free-falling eighth-place Flyers — goaltending.

Tuukka Rask has been the most valuable player for the Bruins since the Olympic break (with apologies to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) and one of the best, if not the best, goaltenders in the NHL this season. There probably will be no Vezina Trophy for Rask considering how much time he has split with Tim Thomas this season, or even a Calder Trophy for the league’s best rookie. It does not seem to matter to Rask, who does not let the talk faze him or the pressure of his first playoff race affect him.

“Try not to let the pressure get on you and play the game,” Rask said. “Try not to let too many outside things get into my head. It has been my approach since day one and do my best out there.”

Rask leads the league in goals-against average at 1.99 and save percentage at .930, both ahead of Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, the goaltender who has garnered the most buzz this year especially after leading the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in Vancouver. A lot of professional athletes will say that they do not care about the statistics that fans and reporters pore over every day, but then you see them in the dressing room staring at the same stat sheet that everybody else is handed after the game. With Rask’s easygoing demeanor, when he says that he does not really pay attention to the stats, it is easy to believe him.

“It’s just stats. I think people like to look at them more than the players,” Rask said. “You know, it is funny when goalies play good and a lot of people talk about them and then suddenly you are the man and and then you don’t play so good and you are not the man anymore. I just try to do my job and have fun out there.”

When asked if how he felt about his progression through the season, Rask just shrugged as if his entire rookie season was not all that important. At least not until it is actually over.

“It has been a good year,” Rask said. “I have done the things that I wanted to do but I don’t think it is time to look back on the season right now. We’ve still got three games left in the regular season and the playoffs and we can talk about it after the season.”

Ference skates, no timetable for return

Defenseman Andrew Ference skated on Tuesday morning though he is still not quite sure when, or if, he will be able to get into a game before the season (including the playoffs) ends. He is struggling with an odd tango that comes with groin/hernia injuries because it is very much a “one step forward, one step back” type of process. Ference said that he is trying to get the swelling in the area down with treatment that includes alternating trips between the cold and hot tubs, massage and some light activity (including skating). The goal for Ference is to be able to come back and play more than a few games and be healthy enough to be a productive member of the team.

“When the guys were away we tried to get a lot of the swelling out,” Ference said. “It is kind of deja vu progress and try to get all the swelling and blood out of there so that I can skate properly and try to, obviously, get to a point where I can help somewhere down the line.”

Ference has come to accept the injury ward. As a veteran he understands that it is an inescapable part of the game and there is really no use being frustrated.

“It is part of the game. If I was 20 years old and hadn’t been around that long I would probably be more frustrated,” Ference said. “But, you get a little better mindset about it when you are older because it is not something that you can control. So you deal with it, suck it up and get better. I am not going to sit and pout about it.”

Spoken like a true veteran of countless hours of physical therapy.

Read More: Andrew Ference, Tuukka Rask,
Bruins gain important two points in Toronto 04.03.10 at 9:50 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins continue to look for ways to apply pressure in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, and they got a much-needed pair of points in Toronto on Saturday with a 2-1 overtime win against the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Miroslav Satan scored the game-winner in overtime with 1:35 left when he deflected a Zdeno Chara blast from the point into the net to light the lamp and end the game. Tuukka Rask got the win for the Bruins with 27 saves out dueling Jonas Gustavsson’s 28 stops in the process.

Toronto took the early lead when Colton Orr found a Dion Phaneuf rebound in the slot in front of Rask at 5:10 in the first period. He put it in the back of the net while getting pushed to the ice to give the Leafs the early 1-0 lead.

Boston came back after getting outshot 14-5 in the first period to tie the game in the second. David Krejci took an outlet pass down the left wing, took the puck to the top of the circle and torqued a backhand shot on Gustavsson. The puck slipped through the crease to where Satan was waiting on the other side to bang home the rebound for his seventh of the year to even the game at 8:01.

Bruins’ defenseman Mark Stuart did not play and was sent back to Boston with cellulitis in his hand and Dennis Seidenberg left the game in the first with a cut on his arm and did not return.

Three Stars

Miroslav Satan — Got his seventh and eighth goals as a Bruin which tied the game then won it in overtime.

Tuukka Rask — The man behind the mask has been the Bruins best stalwart of late and stood tall against the Leafs to earn the vital two points.

Zdeno Chara — The Bruins captain was had to dig deep with the Bruins very shorthanded on defense after Dennis Seidenberg left the game with a cut to his arm and Mark Stuart was shipped back to Boston with cellulitis in his hand. Chara logged 32:53 of ice time and led the team in blocked shots to help keep the puck out of the net.

Turning Point — Phil Kessel had a self pass off the wall at center ice in the that created a 2-on-1 with Tomas Kaberle midway through overtime. Kessel had space and tried to center the puck, but it was broken up in front of Rask to end the threat. Less than a minute later, the Bruins came back to score the game winner of Chara’s shot and Satan’s deflection.

Key Play — Chara set up from the point and delivered one of his patented slap shots that deflected off of Satan’s stick with enough power to flash passed Gustavsson to earn the vital two points.

Read More: Colton Orr, David Krejci, Jonas Gustavsson, Miroslav Satan
First period summary: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs at 7:51 pm ET
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If there was ever a must-win game, Saturday at Air Canada Centre in Toronto is that kind of game for the Bruins.

The results will be twofold. Foremost, the Bruins are only a point ahead of the Thrashers and tied with Flyers for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Secondly, if Boston wants to get a top two pick in the NHL Entry Draft this summer, they have to beat the team whose pick they own to keep them down in the standings.

So, you would think that the Bruins would be motivated and jump on the division rival Leafs early, right?

Not so much.

Toronto took the early lead at 5:10 into the game when Colton Orr, much more known for his bruising than goal scoring, pushed a rebound off a Dion Phaneuf shot pased Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.

Four minutes later the Leafs would have a big chance to make it a two-goal advantage when Michael Ryder went to the penalty box for hooking at 9:15. He was followed there 23-seconds later by Dennis Seidenberg who took a boarding call to set up 1:37 of two-man advantage ice time for Toronto.

The Bruins registered the kill and came back down the ice to put pressure on Leafs’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson but a shot hit the cross bar and bounced back out of the crease to end the threat.

During Seidenberg’s penalty he had to leave the box with a cut on his forearm that needed medical attention. Defenseman Mark Stuart is not with the team after getting sent back to Boston with cellulitis, a skin infection, in his hand. Andrew Bodnarchuk has been recalled from Providence on an emergency basis.

Toronto has been the better team through the first 20 minutes and lead the Bruins in shots by nine, 14 to five.

Read More: Colton Orr, Dennis Seidenberg, Jonas Gustavsson, Mark Stuart
Bruins fall flat in loss to Panthers 04.01.10 at 9:21 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins had that familiar feeling on Thursday as they had trouble finishing chances against the Florida Panthers in a game they lost 1-0 at TD Garden. Tuukka Rask took the loss for Boston on the night with 19 saves while Scott Clemmensen got the shutout for the Panthers in turning away 36 Bruins shots and plethora of opportunities.

The Panthers got on the board in the first period when Keith Ballard pinched the slot with space in front of Rask and went underneath the goaltender’s pads to give Florida a 1-0 lead at 7:15 in the first period. The goal ended a 121:42 shutout streak by Rask over parts of four games.

Boston knocked on the door repeatedly in the second period with 17 shots and two power play opportunities but the Bruins could not beat Clemmensen as every puck that came close was turned away, inches wide or above the net and the game entered the third period with the Panthers still up by the lone goal. Both Milan Lucic and Mark Recchi thought at one point they had scored goals only to see the end result of the puck on the wrong side of the net.

One of Boston’s best chances to score was on a short-handed opportunity in the third period when Blake Wheeler found himself on a 2-on-1 break with David Krejci following him on the right wing. Wheeler ended up waiting too long to make the decision to shoot or pass and put and ineffective tip on the edge of the crease at 4:40.

Rask received the Bruins Seventh Player Award before the game as the player who “went above and beyond the call of duty and exceeded the expectations of Bruins fans during the season.”

Three Stars

Keith Ballard — The defenseman’s first period goal was the only scoring in the game. He also blocked a least a half dozen shots to help his goaltender keep the puck out of the net.

Scott Clemmensen — The former Boston College Eagle was good enough in net to keep the Bruins off the board and out of the win column with (#) saves.

Tuukka Rask — Even in a losing effort the Bruins net minder was solid in turning away the Panthers chances and keeping Boston in the game.

Turning Point — At 15:40 in the second penalty on a delayed penalty the Bruins Mark Recchi thought he had beat Clemmensen with a redirection. He went so far as to raise his hands and stick thinking that it went in but turned out to go wide right. Later in the period on the power play Milan Lucic did almost the same thing as he deflected a puck that went over the net, causing Clemmensen’s water bottle to stir in the process. Lucic raised his hands just as Recchi had but again the puck did not go into the net (though the officials did review Lucic’s tip).

Key Play – Keith Ballard pinched the slot in the first period after a Bruins flurry on the other end of the ice and caught the defense sleeping while the Boston forwards were not being aggressive on the back check. Given a few seconds right in front of a goaltender, most NHL players will take advantage of the situation and Ballard was no exception as he used Rask’s pads against him as he went up and underneath them for the first (and only) goal of the game.

Read More: Keith Ballard, Mark Recchi, Milan Lucic, Scott Clemmensen
First period summary: Bruins vs. Panthers at 7:47 pm ET
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Another Thursday night and another inexplicably flat first period against a non-playoff bound team from Florida.

This time, it was the Florida Panthers who grabbed the 1-0 lead after 20 minutes thanks to a shaky goal off the stick of defenseman Keith Ballard at 7:15 of the first period.

Ballard pinched up the slot and didn’t appear to get all of the puck but enough that it changed directions on Tuukka Rask and fluttered by as Patrice Bergeron was standing by helplessly watching it go in.

The goal ended Rask’s impressive shutout streak at 121 minutes, 42 seconds. Before the game, Rask was honored with the ‘Seventh Player Award’ for the Bruins player who ‘goes above and beyond’ the expectations of fans.

The only highlight for the Bruins came when Johnny Boychuk laid out Victor Oreskovich along the left corner boards just moments after the Panthers’ goal.

The Bruins held a 10-8 shots advantage in the first.

Read More: Bruins, NHL, Panthers, Tuukka Rask
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