B's Clinch Eastern Conference with 5-2 Win Over Flyers
BOSTON — As Milan Lucic stood in front of his locker stall following Saturday’s matinee against Philadelphia, he wore an old-time hockey jacket passed down to the team from Johnny Bucyk. The jacket deemed him the player of the game in a resounding 5-2 home win over Philadelphia that stopped a two-game losing skid.
Last year, it was the military jacket. This year, it’s the Bucyk jacket, and the message is the same: It conveys dominance, and no one conveyed that more than Lucic on Saturday afternoon. The winger, the game’s second star, had two goals in the win, but it was his entire line that kept the Bruins going on Saturday. First star David Krejci had a goal and an assist, and third star Loui Eriksson had four assists, slotting in on Krejci’s right side in the absence of Jarome Iginla.
Both Iginla and defenseman Kevan Miller sat out on Saturday due to “maintenance,” according to Head Coach Claude Julien.
In Bruins style, the win was a true team effort, and a much-needed one that helped the B’s clinch the Eastern Conference’s top seed and home-ice advantage through the postseason.
“It’s good to finish off first, and we still have a few games left and try to finish strong and then really feel good about going in to the playoffs,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who stopped 26 of 28 shots en route to the win. “[We’re] really confident. We’ve felt that way for a long time — if we play our style of hockey, we’re going to have a chance of beating anybody.”
This week was not easy for Boston. After they saw their franchise record 16-game road point streak snapped at the hands of Detroit on Tuesday night, they dropped a second straight contest to Toronto the next night. In the aftermath of both games, the B’s insisted they outplayed the competition but just couldn’t submit the necessary 60-minute effort.
On Saturday, they made absolutely certain they were the better team, and they made sure they got the two points to prove it.
“We talked about that before the game — we were not satisfied with losing two straight games,” Eriksson said. “I thought at the beginning of the game, we were kind of slow, but I thought we took over the game and it was a big win for us to get back on a winning streak here.”
Krejci got the B’s on the board with just over four minutes left in the first period, taking an Eriksson rebound and putting it past Flyers goaltender Ray Emery up high for his 17th strike of the season. He leads the team with 66 points this season.
“I’ve tried to play the same game from the first minute to the end,” Krejci said. “It’s really hard to stop our team when we’re playing pretty good hockey.”
“He’s been good for me all year,” Julien said of Krejci. “He had jump. Some days, you know, there’s some games guys really feel good. They go out there and they feel like they’re light on their skates and everything else. And when David feels good about himself and he’s got his legs going, he becomes that much of a better player. We know he’s skilled, we know he’s got great vision, he can make unbelievable plays, but when his feet are moving — and I’ve said that many times in the past years — he’s that much better. Tonight was one of those nights where I think he felt it.”
With about eight minutes left in the second period, after defenseman Torey Krug went to the box for playing with a broken stick, the Flyers capitalized: Wayne Simmonds struck with the equalizer with seven seconds left on the man advantage.
Philly's momentum was short-lived, though, thanks to Lucic, who beat Emery with a bomb from the high slot less than 20 seconds after the Flyers tied the game.
The Flyers got one back as Jay Rosehill backhanded one past Tuukka Rask stick side with about four minutes left in the frame, but once again, the Bruins put their resilience -- and their third-period dominance -- on display.
With six minutes left in the final frame and the game still tied, defenseman Johnny Boychuk notched the game-winner with a rocket from behind the right circle after a face-off win by Patrice Bergeron.
It marked Boychuk’s second goal in three games, and the assist extended Bergeron’s point streak to 11 games.
“You know, it shows you the team is well-conditioned,” Julien said of the B’s plus-50 mark in the third period this season. “It shows our team is capable of keeping their focus and their determination for 60 minutes, and that’s been a good sign and it’s been one of the reasons we’ve had a pretty decent amount of success.”
Lucic struck again with the insurance goal about 30 seconds later, taking yet another feed from Eriksson and fighting through net-front traffic to find the back of the net.
“We have a good killer instinct in this dressing room to go and play our best when it matters the most,” Lucic said. “I think we gained a lot of experience throughout the years to go out there and leave it all out there, especially in the third period. So it’s good to have guys stepping up when it matters the most in the third period, and we had that here today as well."
Chris Kelly tallied the empty-netter with 21 seconds remaining.
Coming out of the Olympic break, the Bruins were five points behind Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference. Now, with four games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins are 10 points ahead of the Penguins and will be the conference’s top seed in the postseason after embarking upon a furious 19-2-4 tear over their last 25 games.
“At this point in the year, we’re pretty good,” Julien said. “I think it’s just a natural thing right now, and as I’ve mentioned often, our team is an experienced team and the guys know that when the time comes, they will be ready.”
“And to me, they’re still ready right now and playing pretty good hockey against some teams that, as you know, are still desperate right now. I think Philadelphia knows where they want to finish and where they want to be, and tonight was a big game for them. And for us to come out there with that kind of a win — it shows the, I guess, the type of game that we’re playing right now.”