The Boston Bruins clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 7-3 win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Saturday.
Zdeno Chara became the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to score 200 goals, and Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Bruins (46-20-9), who have won four in a row and lead the Toronto Maple Leafs by seven points for second place in the Atlantic Division.
"Absolutely, it's a big win for us," Chara said. "Clinching playoffs in the new [NHL], it's not easy. You can see that every year teams are really battling hard for every point to get into the playoffs, and it's a grind. So if you don't play consistently well and strong throughout the year, it's going to catch up. … So it's nice to be in a position where we have that spot, but at the same time, we want to continue to play well and play hard."
[WATCH: All Bruins vs. Panthers highlights]
Mike Hoffman had a goal and an assist, and Sam Montembeault made 32 saves for the Panthers (33-30-12), who lost for the third time in their past eight games and had their three-game home winning streak end.
"We beat ourselves," Florida coach Bob Boughner said. "Twenty-four turnovers, first four goals all came off our sticks on turnovers. And I wish I could sit here and talk about structure and details, and we didn't do this and didn't do that as a team, the effort wasn't there. It wasn't that. It was just stupidity and bad turnovers that ended up in the back of our net and beating ourselves."
Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Bruins clinch a playoff spot
Noel Acciari scored at 2:23 of the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead after David Backes canceled out an icing by winning a race to the puck and passed it to Acciari in the slot.
Brad Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead 28 seconds into the second period after Patrice Bergeron stole the puck from defenseman Mike Matheson behind the Florida net and passed it to Marchand in front.
Jayce Hawryluck scored on a one-timer from the slot to make it 2-1 at 52 seconds.
The Bruins scored twice in 1:33 to go ahead by three. Chara scored his milestone goal with wrist shot from the high slot at 5:05 to make it 3-1.
"Yeah, I mean, I would lie if I would not say I was very excited about it," Chara said.
Karson Kuhlman followed at 6:38 with a breakaway goal for a 4-1 lead.
Hoffman scored on a wrist shot from the left face-off circle at 10:04 to make it 4-2.
Steven Kampfer gave the Bruins a 5-2 lead with a power-play goal at 15:48, and David Pastrnak scored on a breakaway at 16:36 to make it 6-2.
Vincent Trocheck cut Boston's lead to 6-3 at 3:57 of the third period.
Bergeron scored an empty-net goal at 19:33 for the 7-3 final.
The Bruins joined the Tampa Bay Lightning as teams from the Eastern Conference that have clinched. Boston has qualified for the playoffs three straight seasons.
Video: BOS@FLA: Pastrnak beats Montembeault on breakaway
They said it
"You know this is something that, it's kind of hard to find words, but I think that I would like to dedicate this goal to my dad [Zdenek]. He brought me to hockey and he was always very supportive, very always kind of teaching me what to do and how to train, and the last few weeks he was kind of joking before every game [about] when I'm going to score. But finally, it happened, and I'm very happy." -- Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara on his 200th NHL goal
"At times, whenever we did get the puck in their end, did the right thing, shot the puck deep, started to cycle, it seemed like we had a lot of opportunities and we were getting shots on net. It's just making stupid plays in the D zone. Our breakouts weren't clean." -- Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck
Need to know
The Bruins have made the playoffs 72 times, second in NHL history to the Montreal Canadiens' 83 appearances. ... Boston has 101 points, the second straight season it has surpassed 100 and the NHL-best 23rd time. ... Chara (42 years, five days) became the fifth NHL defenseman older than 42 to score a regular-season goal and the first since Chris Chelios (46 years, 55 days) for the Detroit Red Wings on March 20, 2008. ... Bergeron has eight points (five goals, three assists) during a four-game point streak. ... Panthers center Aleksander Barkov was cut on the forehead after he and Chara fell to the ice in the third period. He left the game with 3:04 remaining. Boughner didn't have an update. ... Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle played his 900th NHL game.
Bruins: At the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, SUN, NESN, NHL.TV)
Panthers: At the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, FS-F, NHL.TV)
Video: Chara nets 200th goal as Bruins clinch playoff berth