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Bruins "Feelin' It" With Playoff Race Heating Up

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON - The playoff race is heating up, and if this weekend's back-to-back wins by the Bruins are any indication, they are heating up right along with it.

"It seems like everyone right now is feelin' it," said Brad Marchand, who struck first on Sunday afternoon en route to a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.

"You can see every line's making plays and we're all getting opportunities, so it's something that's been a long time coming and we've been working hard at it in practice, but it feels nice out there for sure."

The victory gave the Bruins four points on the weekend following their comeback 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia on Saturday that saw Marchand net the late tying goal and the game-winner. Marchand now has five goals in his past four games.

The Black and Gold have earned nine of 10 possible points in their past five games, with a shootout loss to Calgary the lone defeat.

They have scored first in eight straight games, their power play is producing and the penalty kill is on the upswing - and managed two shorthanded tallies against the NHL's top ranked power play on Sunday. Players who should be producing, are starting to produce.

"I think there’s no doubt the trade deadline’s over, guys know they’re here, there’s a lot of players that have picked up their game I think since then," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "Whether it’s a combination of that or combination of where we are in the standings and wanting to make sure we get ourselves into a playoff spot and doing whatever it takes, could be a lot of different things."

"It’s nice to see a lot of those players really bring their game up a notch."

Boston had come into Sunday's game with less than 24 hours between games, with Daylight Saving Time not helping, but fatigue didn't appear to set in at all until towards the end of the game.

They started strong, forechecking hard. When they ended up on the penalty kill early in the first, Detroit could have stolen the momentum. But Marchand stole the puck from Stephen Weiss and sped in on Jonas Gustavsson, making him bite on the fake before sliding it in for the 1-0 lead.

Gustav Nyquist tied it up for the Wings less than three minutes later after the Bruins couldn't clear the zone, but David Pastrnak regained the two-goal lead for Boston just two minutes after that with a power-play goal.

Pastrnak used Milan Lucic as the bumper in the left circle to relieve the pressure before firing it in top corner for his eight goal of the season.

Loui Eriksson would later add an insurance power play tally of his own early in the third period for the eventual 5-3 win. It gave the Bruins two straight games scoring two goals on the man advantage.

"I think we have a couple groups put together right now that are moving the puck with confidence and not really second guessing themselves," said Torey Krug, of the power play success. "We’re zipping the puck around pretty good so it’s a combination of those two things so it’s nice to have that."

Daniel Paille followed up Pastrnak's effort with two straight goals in the second to give the Bruins a 4-1 lead heading to the third. The winger now has four goals in his past six games after being a healthy scratch for two games. It marked the seventh two-goal game of his career.

"Just coming back, you kind of play like you’ve got nothing to lose and just keep working and if you keep working, good things will come out of it," said Paille. "And so far, that’s the way it’s been going right now so it’s been a huge boost."

Paille's first goal came shorthanded, when he stood up Weiss at the blueline and sped in on Gustavsson, putting it past with two Wings closing on him.

The second came with just 1:21 left in the middle frame. Gregory Campbell won the draw, and Max Talbot quickly skated below the goal line, protecting the puck and feeding Paille on the doorstep where he fought for space and chipped it in.

The goal stood as the game-winner, giving new Bruin Talbot the primary assist on two straight game-winning goals, having assisted on Marchand's OT-winner.

"It feels great - when you get a new team, you just hope the team is going to continue playing well and feed off your energy, but I’m glad it went well this weekend for the team," said Talbot. "And I think for myself I’ve been playing with two good linemates, and it’s been clicking as well, so that’s been great, and tonight getting two big goals has been huge."

That fourth line has only been together for two games, but Julien has liked what he's seen for the most part.

"It's obvious that this fourth line has been a real good fourth line," said Julien. "When [Brian] Ferlin’s been in, we had some good stints from that line as well. But now I guess what helps a lot is if you’ve got three veterans that have been around."

"So you feel a little bit more comfortable, too, to give your top lines a break every once in a while after power plays and that you’ve got to utilize your bench a little bit more. I can afford to throw those guys against the other team’s top lines and know that there’s some experience and you can rely on them a little bit more. So that’s been a good change for us."

Detroit made a push in the third and reduced its deficit to 4-2 just 1:24 into the period when a simple wrister from Luke Glendening broke through Niklas Svedberg, who slotted between the pipes.

"We were expecting that they were going to come with a push there," said Svedberg, who made 36 saves on 39 shots. "And I think obviously the second goal was a bad goal, you know it’s just a bad goal. But you’ve got to move on and I think we responded with that goal there [to make it 5-2] and then they pushed pretty hard the rest of the game, which is natural because they were obviously losing the game."

"So I think we stood up good and it felt like a big win for us."

Svedberg's last game had been the 3-2 overtime win in New Jersey that started their current stretch of four wins in five games.

"The only fresh guy we had there was our goaltender that could make some saves - I know there was a goal that trickles in on him, but he made some other big saves to keep us in the game," said Julien. "It depends what we want to look at. I thought he played a strong game for us, gave us the win that we needed against a real good hockey club, so at that point it’s just about staying poised."

Svedberg made a game-changing save to keep the Bruins up 2-1, robbing Justin Abdelkader in tight.

"I really wanted to commit to Sveddy there," said Julien. "At the same time, confidence-wise it’s important for him to finish the game. Sometimes you gotta, not take a gamble, but calculate a gamble and say, ‘You know what? I have confidence he’ll do the job till the end.’ And he did."

"In order to get through this we’re going to need our backup goaltender to come up and play some games for us and not rely too, too much on Tuukka."

The Bruins next face the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday night in yet another game with important playoff implications. The Sens are gunning for the Bruins to take the second Wild Card spot.

"Since we've turned the page on the trades and all that stuff, it just seems, ‘OK, this is our group here and this is what we’re gonna go with,'" said Julien. "And they seem to be really close knit and determined at the same time. I see a real strong focus right now."

The Black and Gold will need that intensity to stay high moving forward into a tough final stretch.

"This team is so intense and so driven for that goal of playing some good hockey and reaching the playoffs and you feel the energy," said Talbot. "You feel the character in this dressing room and you feel what’s ahead, and the guys are definitely driven for making a push here."

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