The Bruins won their fifth straight game Saturday to pull even with the Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. With Boston’s 2-0 victory over the Penguins and and Detroit’s loss to the Flyers, the B’s now trail the Red Wings by three points for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
The win, which came thanks to a Tuukka Rask shutout, a Milan Lucic first-period goal and a clutch empty-netter from Zdeno Chara that went the length of the ice, sets up a big meeting between the B’s and Capitals Sunday in the nation’s capital. Both teams sit at 82 points on the season, though the Bruins have a game in hand.
The Penguins had an uphill climb the whole game, as Sidney Crosby was a late scratch (see below) and Evgeni Malkin was limited to just five shifts all game due to an early injury suffered on a hit from Chris Kelly.
Here are four more things we learned Saturday:
SPOONER LINE STRIKES AGAIN
The Bruins’ third line of Ryan Spooner between Milan Lucic and David Pastrnak produced what was the game’s only goal until Chara’s dagger, with Lucic beating Thomas Greiss from the left circle at 9:53 of the first period.
The goal was the Spooner line’s sixth five-on-five goal in 10 games. It also gave Lucic eight points (four goals, four assists) since the line was united following David Krejci‘s knee injury.
The production for Spooner’s line is very encouraging and proves that the young center could very well take over for Carl Soderberg next season if the veteran center walks in free agency. The team should still prioritize returning Lucic and Pastrnak to Krejci on the first line once Krejci’s back, as Lucic-Spooner-Pastrnak would fare far worse if given the assignments that Lucic and Krejci usually have.
RASK GETS THE SHUTOUT
Rask earned his third shutout of the season and continued a stretch of impressive play of late.
With Saturday’s performance, Rask has allowed two goals or fewer in seven of his last eight starts. The Bruins’ last loss (a shootout defeat against the Flames on March 5) marks the only time since Feb. 18 that Rask has allowed three goals.
The Bruins can do more damage in the standings with a win over the Capitals Sunday, so Claude Julien would be wise to go back to Rask in that contest.
Sidney Crosby was a late surprise scratch for the Penguins and there was some confusion as to whether the Bruins could put Craig Adams in the game in his place after a lineup was submitted with Crosby playing and Adams sitting.
The change was deemed legal, as officials reviewed and approved the change. The NHL sent out the following explanation Saturday afternoon:
Sidney Crosby took pre-game warmup but determined that he could not play in the Bruins/Penguins game and was replaced by Craig Adams. Since Crosby was in the previously submitted starting line-up, this change had to be made according to Rule 7.1 which states that changes to the starting line-up must be reviewed and approved by the Referee prior to the start of the game. Proper procedure was followed by the Penguins and Adams is now in the game.
TROTMAN BACK TO PROVIDENCE
The Bruins returned Zach Trotman to Providence Saturday. The team had recalled the defenseman Friday for their two-game road trip to Pittsburgh and Washington.
With Trotman now back on the AHL roster, the B’s have only their six healthy defensemen for blueline options.