ST. LOUIS - The Bruins left the Scottrade Center on Wednesday night with mixed feelings.
A stinging 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues was not the result they had in mind entering the evening. But the point gained was a nonetheless a valuable one, clinching Boston's second consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"That's the only good news that we clinched the playoffs to be honest," said Anton Khudobin, who made 18 saves, including a crucial sprawling stop at the end of regulation. "I'm not happy with both of those goals to be honest, but there's is only one [piece of] good news - we clinched the playoffs."
Boston reached the 100-point plateau with the victory, ensuring their place in the tournament this spring. The Bruins - 6-2-2 over their last 10 games - have opened up a 7-point lead over Toronto for second place in the Atlantic Division. They are 4 points back of Tampa Bay - with a game in hand - for the Eastern Conference lead.
"It's Step 1," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Going into the season, we wanted to make the playoffs, be a Stanley Cup contender. At some point, hopefully you're a Stanley Cup favorite. That's kind of how it goes now that we got in. We're gonna be a contender. That's the good news."
Video: The Bruins Spoke to media after their game in STL
With 10 games to play, the Bruins' focus now will be on securing the best seed possible, while also getting the lineup back in one piece. On Wednesday night, Boston was without its top three defensemen (Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, and Torey Krug), its top-line center (Patrice Bergeron), two-thirds of its second line (Jake DeBrusk and Rick Nash), and its third-line right wing (David Backes).
"Now, going forward we want to be in the best position possible, playing the best hockey going in," said Cassidy. "It will be second, third, or first [place] - one of those spots. Whichever one we're in, hopefully we'll be healthy and ready to go."
The Bruins would not have clinched its spot in the postseason if not for Khudobin's heroics as time expired in regulation. After making one stop on a long-range shot from the point, the backup netminder had to sprawl to shutdown Dmitri Jaskin's rebound attempt with his blocker.
"Tried to find the puck and as soon as I found it was flying over and I tried to get there as quick as possible," said Khudobin. "It hit my pad and just there's not really other moves than trying to just jump there. It hit my blocker and luckily went to the corner."
Video: BOS@STL: Khudobin reaches for two outstanding stops
Despite holding St. Louis to just 20 shots, including five in the third period, the Bruins squandered its one-goal advantage when Jaden Schwartz zipped one by Khudobin with 9:36 gone in the third. It was Schwartz who connected once again for the winner just 30 seconds into overtime.
"You're always happy to be in the game, get a point," said Cassidy. "But when you have a lead going into the third, doing a pretty good job defensively I thought most of the night, you want to close it out.
"Didn't happen, but overtime - it's frustrating, we talk about puck possession and we had it and we gave it away. Here we are. The lesson of the overtime needs to be learned."
Donato Strikes Again
Ryan Donato picked up right where he left off in his NHL debut, with another goal to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead on the power play midway through the first. While the 21-year-old put his second career tally on the board, he admitted to having to adjust to an elevated level of aggressiveness and strength from the opposition.
"I think it was different," said Donato. "I felt it was a lot more aggressive, a lot more banging bodies tonight. I think that's their style."
Video: BOS@STL: Donato cashes in on key bounce for PPG
Miller a Monster
Down their top three defensemen in Chara, McAvoy, and Krug, the Bruins were in need of someone to step up and shoulder the load. Miller did that - and then some - on Wednesday night. The bruising blue liner played 24 minutes, 17 seconds - behind only Nick Holden's 24:56 - and landed three shots to go along with four blocks.
"Hopefully it will make him that much better knowing that the staff has trust in him," said Cassidy. "I think his game will stay the same, defend hard, make a good first pass. If there's an opportunity to do a little more, do it. That's his role on our team.
"I think he's done fairly well consistently for us. I think he'll rise up. He did last year. Not too concerned about his game."
Miller, who has donned the 'A' on his sweater with Chara, Bergeron and Backes out of the lineup, has also taken on somewhat of a mentorship role with Matt Grzelcyk, his partner for much of the season.
"I think he's just really responsible," said Grzelcyk. "I know that if I'm trying to use my feet to close off plays, sometimes it might seem a little risky, but Kevan's always there to back me up. I try to do the same for him. He's obviously a very defensively responsible defenseman and he can skate really well too.
"That's something that he's done really well this year and I'm just trying to follow his lead."
Krug Sits Out
Krug participated in Wednesday's morning skate, but was not well enough to play against the Blues. He was deemed day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Video: BOS Recap: Bruins clinch playoff spot in 2-1 OT loss