A strong final week of the season should be enough to put the Boston Bruins in the playoffs for the third straight year. That won’t be easy with two road games left against the league-best Washington Capitals.
Boston looks to tighten its grip on a postseason spot and win its fifth straight on the road Monday night against the Eastern Conference champion Capitals.
The Bruins (36-30-12) are tied with Philadelphia for the final two playoff spots in the East, two points ahead of the Rangers and three in front of Atlanta. Boston is technically in eighth place because it has fewer wins than the Flyers but does have a game in hand.
Despite struggling offensively again, the Bruins picked up a huge two points with a 2-1 overtime victory over Toronto on Saturday night behind another strong performance from emerging star Tuukka Rask(notes). Miroslav Satan(notes) scored his second goal of the game with 1:35 left in the extra session and Rask stopped 27 shots as Boston won its fourth in a row on the road.
Rask is doing everything he can to help the Bruins reach the postseason. The league leader in goals-against average (1.96), Rask is 4-2-0 with a 1.21 GAA and two shutouts in his last seven games.
“I just try to play the (same) game every night,” Rask told the team’s official Web site. “I try to get the scoreboard as low as I can to give us a chance to win every night and that’s the only thing I worry about.”
Rask has needed to be extremely sharp because his teammates haven’t given him much support, scoring five goals in the last four games. Boston is last in the league with 2.36 goals per game, a huge dropoff from last season when it ranked second with 3.29.
Rask has been on the bench in favor of Tim Thomas(notes) for the Bruins’ two meetings this season with the Capitals - both 4-1 losses. Boston is 1-4-2 in its last seven against Washington, losing four straight at the Verizon Center where it closes the regular season April 11.
“Well, one thing we do know is that they are loaded with talent and they’re loaded with skill and we are going to have to really play a tight game,” Boston coach Claude Julien said of the Capitals.
Having already locked up the conference’s top seed, Washington (51-15-12) also clinched its first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history Sunday when San Jose lost in overtime to Colorado.
Washington set a franchise record with its 51st win Saturday night, scoring three first-period goals in a 3-2 victory at Columbus. Jose Theodore(notes) made 34 saves to improve to 18-0-3 since his last regulation loss Jan. 12.
The Capitals added to their franchise record for points in a season (114) and set a new mark for road wins (23).
“Well, it’s nice to set records,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It gives us a goal to shoot for for next year. And it’s nice to get the 51st win. We were stuck on 49 there for a while. But its more significant the fact that Theo had a good game and for the most part we played fairly good defensively.”
Alex Ovechkin(notes) was held without a goal for the third straight game and remained stuck on 46, one behind league leader Sidney Crosby(notes). He has four goals in his last three games against Boston.