The Bruins, however, do only have six games remaining and this two-week push to the end of the regular season will be beyond grueling.
Once again, this team has put themselves in a position where they control their own playoff destiny...so much so that they have a chance to catch the teams in front of them within the Atlantic Division. Is it wise to concern themselves with that fact? Nope. As cliche as it sounds, they need to take things one game at a time.
On Tuesday night, the B's played host to the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are still battling to get into the playoff picture; they were four points behind the Bruins in the standings. These two teams also have one more meeting next week, but the goal was to get the two points on this night.
Prior to the game, NESN announced that David Pastrnak was the recipient of the Seventh Player Award for performing above and beyond expectations this year (10 goals, 15 assists, plus-13 rating through 40 games). This was a well-deserved honor. Take notes, Claude Julien and keep on playing the kids.
Brett Connolly took part in the team warm-ups prior to the game, but did not play. He is getting really close to making his B's debut. Tuukka Rask made his 62nd start of the season between the pipes for this one. Now, let's talk about the game.
In the first period, there was a pretty good pace out there through several minutes of continuous play. As the period went along, both teams committed bad turnovers that led to scoring chances for the opposition. There were also phases of sloppiness out there. The Panthers blew a chance with the power play and committed a bad penalty to negate the man advantage. It was on the ensuing four-on-four that Loui Eriksson netted a nifty back hander into the net for his 20th goal of the season (fifth time in his career that he reached the 20-goal mark).
With the Bruins possessing a 1-0 lead in the second period, Florida erased that deficit under one minute into the second frame (a power-play tally). That was the jump start that the Panthers needed in this game. From that point forward, the B's were smothered by Florida and that rushed Boston into making some plays that it would otherwise not make. A fanned shot by Matt Bartkowski combined with a shot that should have been saved by Rask, the Panthers grabbed the lead midway through the second on a goal by Brad Boyes.
Florida started to leave doubts in the minds of the Bruins. In the third period, the B's started to get some of their confidence back. The defensive mindset became a precedent. When you play smart, good things happen. The Bruins tied the game on the stick of Ryan Spooner. Pastrnak got an assist on the play as he adds to his numbers on what has been an impressive rookie year--a more impressive rookie year statistically than Tyler Seguin.
As time winded down, Milan Lucic blasted home the game-winning goal to seal the very important victory and all but end the playoff hopes of the Panthers. They are now six points behind Boston for the final playoff spot. Now, the Black and Gold can just worry about the Ottawa Senators.
The Bruins will play their next game on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings.
Gold Star: Dennis Seidenberg...He has really picked up his game lately. All of the criticism that he has been receiving is starting to go away with his gritty and physical style.
Black Star: Matt Bartkowski...Another tough night out there for him. You think that he would have cleaned up some of the sloppy play that he brings to the ice on a consistent basis.
Game Seventy-Seven Box Score