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Bruins Earn Shootout Win, Avoid Leafs Letdown

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - Patrice Bergeron scored the deciding goal in the shootout and Tuukka Rask stopped all three shooters he faced to lift the Bruins to a 2-1 win over Toronto on Saturday night at TD Garden.

The Black and Gold should not have needed a shootout to grab two points.

They sent 79 shot attempts towards the Leafs' net. Fifty shots hit the mark for Boston's highest shot total in two years, since April 2013.

"They come in here, they’ve got nothing to lose except a lot to gain by being spoilers," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. "Then all of a sudden you’ve got a lot of opportunities, their goaltender is starting to feel it, he feels invincible, and then you’re trying to put pucks past him."

"There’s no doubt, in the third period, even in the second half of the third they’re just playing, saying ‘Let’s go win this game.’ While we’re saying ‘We can’t afford to lose this.’ Although you’re trying to win, there’s a lot more pressure on our team than there was on theirs."

With the win, the Bruins stayed three points up on the Ottawa Senators, who let a 3-0 lead evaporate against the Washington Capitals before winning 4-3 in overtime. The Sens play their game in hand in Toronto on Sunday night.

Boston is now tied at 95 points with Detroit and Pittsburgh. Both teams play a game in hand on Sunday as well.

"Everyone is playing desperate hockey, good hockey, and it definitely keeps us on our toes," said Bergeron, who scored the Bruins' only goal in regulation, just 19 seconds into the middle frame to put them up 1-0.

"And we have to do the job. You know, it’s in our hands. They’re not going to quit, and we knew that heading into the last stretch, but we’re seeing it right now, so we have to keep going."

Boston will close out the season with a three-game road trip against the Capitals, Florida Panthers (who were eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday) and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bruins, not surprisingly, admitted to some scoreboard watching.

"It’s tough when it’s right up on the top of the building, you see Ottawa winning," said Brett Connolly, who played his first game at TD Garden as a Bruin, getting acquainted to the Boston faithful - and the out-of-town score board.

"But, again, it’s one of those things where we’ve got to just worry about ourselves and I thought we’ve done a pretty good job of that, we’ve been sticking with each other and playing for our teammates here so it’s been a good little stretch. We’ve got to keep it going."

The Bruins are now on a five-game win streak and have picked up 11 of 12 points in their past six games, dating back to an overtime loss to Anaheim on March 26.

What has put them on this stretch? Expert goaltending from Tuukka Rask, who has allowed two or fewer goals during the win streak, a stronger defensive game, and desperation kicking in enough to get them the all-important two points each night.

"It’s obviously a big three games [coming up], it’s going to determine where we fit here going to the postseason," said Connolly. "I think guys are embracing it, we’re excited about it. It’ll be good for us going forward playing these meaningful games."

The Bruins have been playing meaningful games for a while now, arguably since January, though the results haven't always been there. At this time of the season, they have to be.

With so much on the line, Saturday night's game - especially the first period, when the Bruins outshot the Leafs 19-6 - could have been frustrating. Chance after chance couldn't get by Reimer.

"You know, when you look at the score you say, ‘How could they?’ But we spent a lot of time in their end in the first period," said Julien. "Second period, we kind of got caught in that back-and-forth kind of game instead of managing the puck a little bit better in the O-zone, but still had some scoring chances."

A three-on-two rush for Boston with Milan Lucic, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak nearly matriculated early in the first period, but Pastrnak's return pass to Lucic couldn't connect.

Boston had two power play opportunities in the first as well, with the best bid coming off the stick of David Krejci.

"It's one of those games, kind of like Buffalo, when you let a team hang around that long, you’re inviting trouble," Julien said.

"We had some really good chances," said Rask, who stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced through 65 minutes. "We gave him a lot of shots that he saw, and then when you see those and it hits your stomach, it makes you feel good. I know that feeling, and it’s a great feeling, and then you kind of get into a rhythm, and it’s tough to score after that."

"So I knew we were going to be in a dogfight after that first, but he made a ton of great saves, and he made it tough for us."

"They obviously needed the two points and they came out hard," said Reimer, who saw 11 of the Bruins' shots blocked by his teammates in the opening 20 minutes alone. "I thought we were sacrificing the body and playing really well. I was impressed with the way we handled it."

The Bruins finally broke through right at the start of the second, when Bergeron pounced on his own rebound and roofed his 22nd goal of the season over Reimer to tie Brad Marchand for the team lead.

Bergeron chipped the puck into the offensive zone, where Krejci connected with Marchand along the boards down low before feeding Bergeron. It marked the first goal for that trio.

"We’re creating a lot of chances," said Bergeron. "We’re having some clean chances that we have to put it in…I think our communication is definitely helping, and we’re improving, and we’re getting better at reading off each other on the transition and stuff like that to create some speed."

The need to finish was felt team-wide, but neither Julien nor the Bruins thought that would be an issue moving forward.

"I mean, it’s points that are really important right now," said Bergeron. "You want to do it in regulation, but when it comes down to that, you have to find a way."

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