COLUMBUS, Ohio — With two games left in the regular season, the Bruins are in the best position they could have hoped for.
They clinched home-ice advantage in their first-round playoff series against Toronto by crushing Columbus, 6-2, on Tuesday night. The B’s have had four three-game losing streaks all season, and ensured they wouldn’t have a fifth with a dominant effort.
“It’s the kind of team we’ve been all year,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’re a good hockey club. We don’t usually lose a lot of games in a row, and tried to take care of the business at hand and correct why we lost.”
Jake DeBrusk scored twice as the Bruins built on their early lead and held on late, with Brad Marchand earning his 100th point of the season on a late assist. The group was banged up in the process, with Torey Krug and Marcus Johansson going off at various points, but they seemed to survive fully intact.
“We’ll find out if there’s any further damage,” Cassidy said. “(Patrice Bergeron) took one off the foot, you’re always worried, he got through that fine. Torey went into the boards early, seemed to play through it. I think for the most part, we’re OK.”
After allowing seven goals to the Jackets the last time they faced off in Ohio’s capital, Tuesday night was a stronger defensive effort and closer to the B’s desired identity.
Scoring six goals, of course, makes that a lot easier.
DeBrusk was credited with the goal to put the Bruins ahead 1-0. With 1:58 gone in the first, Krug flipped a puck toward net. It bounced off a few bodies in front before reaching Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and then the net, where it snuck in.
With 2:33 to go in the opening frame, Johansson notched his first goal with the Bruins. The winger took a pass from fellow trade deadline acquisition Charlie Coyle and sent it past Bobrovsky to double the advantage.
Krug went down into the corner skates-first with 41 seconds left in the period and went down the tunnel, but he returned for the second period.
Earlier in the frame, Noel Acciari took a big hit into the boards and came up holding his chest. He stayed in the game, but both Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes tried to get even via fisticuffs with David Savard to no avail.
Late in the second, the Bruins offensive jets turned on again. Marchand buried his 36th goal of the season off a rebound on David Pastrnak’s second shot attempt with 4:46 left to take a 3-0 lead.
Just 46 seconds later, DeBrusk tallied his second of the night. He could have had a hat trick if not for a big save earlier in the period — on the same play that sent Johansson hurting to the bench — but netted his second goal on a pass from Karson Kuhlman weaved between two defenders.
DeBrusk’s goal, his 27th of the season, chased Bobrovsky from the net.
Pastrnak got on the board just 34 seconds into the third, with a wrister squeezed past Joonas Korpisalo giving the B’s their fifth goal. Marchand earned the secondary assist, his 100th point of the season. It’s the B’s first 100-point season since Joe Thornton in 2002-03.
“It’s a pretty good feeling,” said Marchand. “I think it just shows how good of a team we have. The success of the group the whole year, it just shows in the way guys are having good seasons. It’s a cool personal stat, but at the end of the day it goes toward the same goal of getting to the playoffs, and we’re right there.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand netted a power play goal 5:51 into the third to prevent the shutout. Matt Duchene blasted an open shot from the point with 10:46 to go in the frame and cut the Bruins lead further while Charlie McAvoy served a double-minor for a high stick.
Kuhlman added onto the Bruins total with his third goal of the year at the 9:32 mark. DeBrusk whiffed from the bottom of the slot on what would have been a hat trick, but it trickled to Kuhlman who found the empty net.
The Bruins head to Minnesota for their last road game of the regular season tonight before wrapping the season up at home against the Lightning on Saturday.
The playoffs begin Wednesday, April 10. The NHL will release the schedule for the first round of the postseason on Sunday.