Without their leading goal scorer, the Boston Bruins picked up another key win in their drive for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the arguably one of the toughest matchups remaining, the Bruins will look to maintain their newly regained consistency and try for a fourth straight road win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.
Phil Kessel, who has a team-best 31 goals, is expected to miss a second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury, but his teammates responded in his absence Saturday night with a 7-5 win in Toronto. Boston took command with four straight goals to end the second period, snapping a season high five-game road losing streak, and six different Bruins scored with former Flyer Mark Recchi tallying a pair.
After winning five of six coming out of the All-Star break, Boston went 6-9-4 and allowed New Jersey and Washington to gain ground in the East standings.
Thanks to consecutive victories, the Bruins (48-17-10) have pushed five points ahead of the Capitals and are six in front of New Jersey with eight games remaining in their attempt to grab the conference’s top playoff seed for the first time since 2001-02.
Boston’s schedule appears advantageous with only three remaining opponents currently in playoff contention - the Flyers, New York Rangers and Montreal. In addition to their three straight wins in Philadelphia, the Bruins are 6-1-1 there since Feb. 19, 2004, but have dropped their last two overall meetings with the Flyers.
With his team holding a more comfortable lead in the conference, Bruins coach Claude Julien is focused on preparing his team for the postseason. Boston, which will make its second straight appearance after winning its first Northeast Division title since 2003-04, hasn’t advanced past the first round in 10 years and lost in seven games to Montreal last season.
“Just because we’re in a playoff spot doesn’t mean that everything’s OK. Our play in the last month and a half hasn’t been up to par. We need to get better in our game,” Julien said. “It’s about fine-tuning ourselves and getting some momentum heading into the playoffs.”
The Flyers come into Sunday’s game looking to maintain their own spot in the East’s playoff race, sitting fourth with 92 points. In winning four of its last five, Philadelphia (41-23-10) has moved one point ahead of red-hot Carolina in the battle for home-ice advantage but is only six in front of Montreal in eighth.
The Flyers, who are also six points back of New Jersey in the Atlantic Division, rallied for a 4-3 shootout victory Saturday night against the New York Islanders. Trailing by two entering the third period, Philadelphia scored three straight goals but allowed the Islanders to tie it at 3-all before prevailing in the tiebreaker.
“We had to battle back and find ways to play better,” said Mike Richards, who clinched the shootout win. “It’s nice that we can come back and win in that situation.”
Scott Hartnell extended his point streak to four games with a goal and an assist, giving him seven goals and 13 points in his last 10. Jeff Carter is on a six-game streak with three goals and four assists in that time.