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The Boston Bruins are going back to the playoffs after a crucial 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
Boston went ahead in the second period with two goals and put a stranglehold on the game with a third period tally. Goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped all 28 Tampa shots on goal in the win.
The last two years, the Bruins have missed the playoffs after late-season swoons but this team has figured out a way to get hot at the right time.
“Obviously a new feeling for me,” Bruins forward David Pastrnak said. “I’m really enjoying it, it’s a lot of fun and it’s exciting. Now we’ve got ourselves in a spot we can actually fight for home ice and a good spot in the playoffs. We can play a little more relaxed knowing that we made it and it’s a lot of fun.”
Boston has won six games in a row, a stretch where they’ve outscored their opponents 20-6. Meanwhile the Lightning have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games but basically need a miracle to take the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins now have 94 points in 80 games including 42 wins in regulation and overtime. The Lightning have 88 points in 79 games and 35 regulation and overtime wins.
“We’re not out of it. Obviously a tough ladder to climb, obviously need some results to go our way but we’re obviously disappointed with the game tonight. But we got to turn around quickly,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said.
Making the playoffs continues the Boston turnaround under interim coach Bruce Cassidy. Since Cassidy took over for Claude Julien, the Bruins have gone on an 18-7-0 stretch.
“You know, I think the city deserves (the playoffs). The organization deserves it, and, you know, we feel like we deserve it too,” Rask said. “We fought hard all year to secure a spot, and it took 80 games, so it’s a good feeling. I think everybody can breathe a little easier now, but we’ve still got two games left and then real games start so… but great accomplishment (for now).”
Boston got on the board at the 5:56 mark of the first period when Drew Stafford’s backhand beat Andrei Vasilevskiy to make the game 1-0.
At the 16:06 mark of the second, Bruins forward Riley Nash fed an open Pastrnak in front of Vasilevskiy. Pastrnak then buried the pass to make the game 2-0.
With Tampa forward Yanni Gourde in the box for high-sticking Boston captain Zdeno Chara fired a one-timer off a feed from Torey Krug to make the game 3-0.
The Bruins were able to win despite Brad Marchand being kicked out of the game at the 19:20 mark of the first period for spearing Tampa defenseman Jake Dotchin. Marchand was given a major penalty and the Bruins killed it off.
“It’s a game-changer,” Cassidy said about his team’s ability to kill off Marchand’s penalty. “If they get momentum there then all of a sudden doubt creeps into your head for a number of different reasons. So we’ll just keep it to the simple fact that we’ve been good on the kill all year, it’s come through us in crucial times, and tonight there was no bigger time for us.”
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