BOSTON - When Bruce Cassidy walked off the bench on Saturday night following the Bruins' 5-2 win over Ottawa, his night was not quite over.
He retreated to his office just outside Boston's dressing room and huddled around the TV with his coaching staff, just in time to see Tampa Bay fall in overtime to Carolina.
The Lightning's loss, coupled with his club's victory, means 2 more points against the Florida Panthers in Game No. 82 on Sunday night will clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
"Me and Joe [Sacco] and Kevin [Dean] and Goalie Bob [Essensa], we were in there watching," said Cassidy. "Opportunity for us, hopefully we're up to the task. I'm sure the guys will be excited tomorrow."
Video: Big 2nd period helps pace Bruins past Senators, 5-2
For the Bruins, having so much on the line - a chance at both the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference crowns - during the final game of the regular season is all they could have asked for when things kicked off back in October, especially after Boston's tumultuous opening six weeks.
"Let's face it: we were trying to find our own game and get to where we thought we were at the start of the year, which was definitely a playoff team," said Cassidy. "We just didn't know where we would fit. And the way Tampa got out of the gate, and Toronto for that matter, it was going to be an uphill battle, but here we are.
"We're in a position to take it, and that's a credit to the guys. We've worked hard to get here. This wasn't by accident. We didn't back in, I don't think. Tampa, they beat us the other night in their building, and they deserved to win that game. And we thought, well it might be a little tougher, but here we are."
Video: Cassidy reacts to B's win over Ottawa
Cassidy confirmed that Tuukka Rask will get the start between the pipes on Sunday night for the game that will determine whether the Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"There's always something to play for," said Zdeno Chara, who played a game high 25:32. "That's what's great about this game. No matter if it's Game 1 or Game 82, you still have to prove yourself to the team, to the fans. You want to continue to show that when you put the jersey on it's game time and it's a lot of pride.
"You don't want to make that last game something that you just want to go through without any emotions or the right approach. We know it's a big game for us and I'm sure nobody is going to lay down in front of us."
Boston's crucial victory over the Senators snapped a three-game losing skid, which looked like it might reach four after a sleepy first period that saw the Bruins fall behind 1-0. But the Black & Gold responded with a furious middle frame, during which they landed 17 shots on goal and potted three goals (David Pastrnak on the power play, Tommy Wingels, and Danton Heinen) to open up a 3-1 advantage.
"I think it was a big game for us. We want to get a better feeling about ourselves after the last couple games where we didn't play that well and it's a good comeback and a big win for us. It's great to have it in our hands," said Pastrnak, who matched his career high with his 34th goal of the season.
Video: OTT@BOS: Pastrnak slams home one-timer for PPG
The Bruins buckled down in the third after Ryan Dzingel collected his second of the game to bring Ottawa within a goal. Noel Acciari notched the first dagger with a slick breakaway tally with 1:51 to play, before David Backes truly sealed the deal with an empty-netter just over a minute later.
"You're pretty much battling the whole year to make the playoffs. And Game 82, that matters…it's really interesting," said Anton Khudobin, who made 26 saves, including a ridiculous post-to-post stop on Dzingel in the second. "Sometimes you're making the playoffs like we did a little bit early, but at the same time it's a really important game, that last game."
That it is.
"That's why you play the game, you want to play to win and to be at your best," said Patrice Bergeron. "We're in a position to win our conference. It's a big feat, obviously, home ice - we talk about how big it is. Why not? We're right there and obviously I talked about how you finish going into the playoffs. It's definitely all about tomorrow, playing the right way and feeling good about our game."
Video: OTT@BOS: Khudobin goes into a split to rob Dzingel