TAMPA, Fla. - The Bruins and Lightning both have something to play for on Saturday night, when the puck drops on Game No. 82 of the season for both sides.
The Black and Gold's "something" just happens to have greater consequences.
With Pittsburgh dropping a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night, the Bruins had three scenarios on Saturday that would put them into the postseason.
The first depends on Ottawa's Saturday afternoon game in Philadelphia (which was a 2-1 lead for Ottawa after the second period as these hands are typing at 2:20 p.m. ET). With an Ottawa loss in regulation, and a Bruins win in fashion on Saturday, they would clinch.
The other two scenarios depend on the Penguins, and their matchup against the Sabres in Buffalo on Saturday night (a 7:00 p.m. start, with Boston's game against Tampa Bay set for 7:30). Regardless of the outcome of the Ottawa game, the Bruins would clinch a playoff spot if: Pittsburgh loses in regulation and they win in any fashion, or if Pittsburgh loses in overtime or a shootout, and they win in regulation.
TAMPA, Fla. - Following a back-to-back in D.C. and Sunrise against the Capitals and Panthers, the Bruins did not hold a practice on Friday in Tampa. They next face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
With the team off and, as a result, no media availability, General Manager Peter Chiarelli made himself available to the Boston media at the team's hotel.
Not surprisingly, the GM was asked many questions about the disappointment of the club slipping out of a playoff position with Thursday night's 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers.
To make the postseason, Boston now needs a win over Tampa Bay, and either the Ottawa Senators to lose in regulation to Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon, or the Pittsburgh Penguins to only pick up one point between their final two games, against the Islanders on Friday night and then the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bruins knew what was at stake on Wednesday night, playing their game in hand amidst the heated playoff race in the East.
The Ottawa Senators were tied with them at 95 points, and a crucial two points with a win over the Washington Capitals would give the B's a bit more insurance heading into the final two games of the regular season.
Just 15 seconds into the first period at the Verizon Center, Tuukka Rask - making his 68th appearance between the pipes this season - had to fight off a shot, and scoop the loose puck under his glove.
By the time five minutes had passed, the Capitals would have a 1-0 lead en route to a 3-0 win over the Bruins.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Bruins haven't been able to solve Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals yet this season.
Wednesday night would be a good time to change that.
Boston remains in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Ottawa Senators' 4-3 win in overtime against Pittsburgh on Tuesday night put them even with the Bruins at 95 points. The B's play their game in hand against the Caps on Wednesday, before the Bruins and Senators each play their final two games on Thursday and Saturday. The Penguins have 96 points with two games left, and the Red Wings have 97.
Given the game's implications, the Black and Gold are zeroed in on finding a way to get the all-important two points.
WILMINGTON, Mass. - Bruins captain Zdeno Chara was back practicing with the team at Ristuccia Arena on Tuesday, after being given a maintenance day on Monday.
Chara had been labeled "day-to-day" by Head Coach Claude Julien on Monday after he laid out to block a shot during the third period of the Bruins' eventual 2-1 shootout win over Toronto on Saturday at TD Garden.
The defensemen was hobbled immediately following the block, but finished the game.
"I mean, we all block shots, we all do whatever it takes to win, and that situation obviously I decided to make a play by blocking and that was it," Chara said following Tuesday's practice. "And I continued to play, and we ended up winning the game, so that's the positive part."
"It feels good," he said. "I practiced today. We had a good practice and worked on a few things, getting ready for Washington."
The Bruins jetted off to Washington, D.C. after their skate to begin a three-game road trip that will close out their 2014-15 regular season action. They face the Capitals on Wednesday night, before facing the Florida Panthers on Thursday and the Lightning in Tampa on Saturday.
BostonBruins.com - College hockey is coming to TD Garden this week, when the Frozen Four kicks off on Thursday night with the semifinal matchups.
Aside from taking place in the Bruins' home rink, the Frozen Four will feature two Black and Gold prospects facing off in one of the opening games.
Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, drafted in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft (85th overall), will face off against University of North Dakota goaltender Zane McIntyre, chosen by Boston in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft (165th overall).
Both in their junior seasons, the prospects will compete in the second semifinal on Thursday, April 9 at 8:30 p.m. at TD Garden (televised on ESPN2). The first semifinal at 5:00 p.m. features Providence and Nebraska-Omaha.
The Black and Gold should not have needed a shootout to grab two points.
They sent 79 shot attempts towards the Leafs' net. Fifty shots hit the mark for Boston's highest shot total in two years, since April 2013.
"They come in here, they’ve got nothing to lose except a lot to gain by being spoilers," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. "Then all of a sudden you’ve got a lot of opportunities, their goaltender is starting to feel it, he feels invincible, and then you’re trying to put pucks past him."
"There’s no doubt, in the third period, even in the second half of the third they’re just playing, saying ‘Let’s go win this game.’ While we’re saying ‘We can’t afford to lose this.’ Although you’re trying to win, there’s a lot more pressure on our team than there was on theirs."
WILMINGTON, Mass. - Brett Connolly had to wait much longer than he would have liked to make his debut as a Bruin.
With his right index finger healed, his arsenal of a shot ready to go and his conditioning up, Connolly slotted into his first game in the Spoked-B on Thursday night in Detroit, notching two assists en route to a 3-2 comeback win.
"Obviously being out for so long, it's exciting to get back in and we got a big win, so that was important, too," Connolly said from Ristuccia Arena on Friday, where the team gathered for off-ice workouts prior to Saturday's home matchup against Toronto.
"Detroit's a very good team and they played well the first half of the game and they really took it to us there for a bit, but there's a lot of character in this room," said Connolly. "There's guys that have been there before and won. It was good to come out with the results."
BOSTON - Milan Lucic sent the TD Garden crowd into a frenzy of "Looooooch" as the winger serenaded them back with a fist pump.
With just 1:09 remaining in regulation on Tuesday night, he lifted the Bruins to a 3-2 lead over the Florida Panthers. The score stood, and the Black and Gold picked up a huge two points.
The victory kept the Bruins three points up on the Ottawa Senators in the standings, and six points ahead of the Panthers, who they face one more time in Sunrise next week.
"They put so much emphasis on this game and probably being the biggest game of their season, and we had to view it the same way," said Lucic. "Being down 2-1 going into the third, we had to have the same desperation and that mentality as they did, playing for your lives type of mentality."
The Bruins had earned a 1-0 lead late in the first, off Loui Eriksson's 20th goal of the season, but the Panthers struck twice in the second to go up 2-1 heading to the third. They had only lost three games in regulation all season when leading after 40 minutes. Boston handed them their fourth.
RALEIGH, N.C. - David Pastrnak fired the puck home with purpose and the Bruins were heading home to Boston with two important points, thanks to a 2-1 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I was aiming to the net," Pastrnak smiled from the visiting team locker room at PNC Arena. "I just tried to hit the net."
Carl Soderberg raced up ice, and kept control as he fed a centering pass from the end boards with two Hurricanes collapsed down low around him. Milan Lucic was near the net, but the pass made its way to Pastrnak all alone at the bottom of the left circle, who wound up and fired a one-timer that stayed low, and beat Anton Khudobin for the win.
"I was trying to hit the net and trying to shoot high, you know, because the goalie was coming from the other side," said Pastrnak. "And it went low, and it was in."
It was all the Bruins needed.