Bruins wrap up Eastern title
BOSTON - Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk knew he had scored the tie-breaking goal with 6:06 left in what turned out to be a 5-2 victory over the sagging Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
What Boychuk wasn't aware of was his game-winner allowed his team to clinch the Eastern Conference regular season title.
"I didn't even know ... yeah, it feels good," Boychuk said after the Bruins avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season with three late goals. "We try not to think about it; we just want to come to the rink and not think about anything else but the opponent in front of us.
"I guess it's pretty good."
The win not only wrapped up the East, but it gave the Bruins a two-point lead over St. Louis for the overall league lead, the Blues with a game in hand.
The Bruins have four games left, three of them on the road.
"There's another race there," said left winger Milan Lucic, who scored his 23rd and 24th goals of the season and added an assist. "Last time I checked I think they were down, 1-0."
Told the Blues, who lost to the Colorado Avalanche, at home, were down, 3-0, Lucic said: "Down, 3-0," and smiled.
He added: "You want to be the best team during the season, (but) once the playoffs start you can throw everything out the window. I think right now we're not focused on winning and losing or the Presidents' Trophy (awarded to the league's overall leader), we're just focused on playing the right way. And I think in the third period there we played the right way."
Playing well in the third period is nothing new for the Bruins, who are league-best plus-50 in third periods this season. Their overall differential of plus-84 also is tops in the league.
Boychuk and Lucic scored 31 seconds apart to break the 2-2 tie.
Patrice Bergeron won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Boychuk, who blasted his shot past Ray Emery, Boychuk's fifth goal of the season and extended Bergeron's points streak to a career-high 11 games.
It was quickly followed by Lucic's second.
The Flyers, 0-3-1 in their last four and 1-4-2 in their last seven, were in the third-place automatic playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, but only two points ahead of Columbus.
Philadelphia also is in danger of failing to get one of the two wild card spots.
"I don't think we got outplayed (in the third period)," said Philly center Claude Giroux, who ended a three-game pointless streak with his 54th assist of the season.
"I think maybe today we didn't stick to the game plan and we were impatient with our game, and we need to trust the way we play and our system. When we do that, we are going to start winning games."
The Flyers and Blue Jackets both have five games remaining.
With right winger Jarome Iginla sitting out because of a lower body injury, Loui Eriksson moved into his spot on the line with Lucic and center David Krejci.
Eriksson posted a career-high four assists, matching his career high for points in a game, while Krejci scored his 17th goal and also had an assist.
Left winger Chris Kelly added an empty netter with 20.7 seconds left, his ninth goal of the season, as the Bruins avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in the Boston goal, while Emery played a strong game, with 37 saves.
Right winger Wayne Simmonds (his 17th) and left winger Jay Rosehill (No. 2 in 31 games) scored for the Flyers.
The teams combined for two goals in 19 seconds and three in 1:45 late in the second period to leave the game tied.
NOTES: Bruins RW Jarome Iginla missed his second game in the last three because of a lower body injury, while D Kevan Miller was also out with an undisclosed injury. ... C Carl Soderberg returned to the Boston lineup after missing Thursday's game for the birth of his first child. ... Flyers RW Steve Downie missed his seventh straight game because of a head injury. ... Flyers coach Craig Berube said G Steve Mason will start at home against the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday after Ray Emery played on Saturday. ... The Bruins travel to play at Minnesota on Tuesday and Winnipeg on Thursday. ... Bruins RW Reilly Smith was named the winner of the Seventh Player Award, voted by the fans to the Bruin who most exceeded expectations. He has one goal in the last 26 games. ... Former Bruin Derek Sanderson dropped the first puck as the team capped the commemoration of its 90th season. ... Flyers C Sean Couturier played in his 200th NHL game.