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Bruins clinch Atlantic; Iginla reaches 30 goals

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins have been nearly unstoppable since returning from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, winning 14 of 17 and steamrolling their competition.

Their recent dominance was rewarded Saturday with an Atlantic Division title after a 4-2 victory against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center.

"We don't even talk about that," Bruins coach Claude Julien said, downplaying the accomplishment. "I knew there was something that would happen if we won [Saturday], but we find out now we've clinched and that's fine. Again, we've got an opportunity to do even more than that."

Forward Jarome Iginla scored twice to reach 30 goals for the 12th time and tie Montreal Canadiens forward Guy Lafleur for 24th on the NHL goal-scoring list.

Forwards Carl Soderberg and Patrice Bergeron scored for Boston (51-17-6), and backup goalie Chad Johnson made 31 saves for his sixth straight win and 11th in his past 12 starts (11-0-1).

"I thought all the way around, we played a very solid road game," Iginla said. "The goaltending was great again. We've had outstanding goaltending this year. [Johnson] coming in there and [making] some huge saves early. Our [penalty kill] was real good because [Washington] has a great power play. It was a big boost to get those kills."

Forwards Jason Chimera and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored, and goalie Braden Holtby stopped 32 shots for Washington (34-28-12), which remains in a four-way tie with the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs at 80 points.

The Blue Jackets and Red Wings would hold the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by virtue of having played the fewest games. Detroit visits Toronto on Saturday.

"It seems like we [were] afraid to do something out there, afraid to create the play and we give them easy chances," said Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin, who has gone a career-high 14 straight games without an even-strength goal. "It's details. We knew they [are a] physical team but we have to take a hit and make a play. You can see we [were] not [a] desperate team in the first two periods. We can't play like that."

The Bruins dictated the pace of play throughout the first period, tilting the ice in their favor and snuffing out most of the Capitals' attempts to counterattack before they could even start.

Holtby, who faced 15 shots in the first 20 minutes, was forced to make several key saves to keep the game scoreless. Most impressively, he slid across the crease to swallow Bruins forward Chris Kelly's attempt in front created by a backhanded setup from Soderberg with about six minutes left in the period.

The Capitals' first sustained offensive-zone time came during a late power play when Bergeron tripped Ovechkin, but Johnson stopped all four shots from the NHL's top unit.

Iginla's first goal gave Boston a 1-0 lead early in the second period. After serving a minor penalty for slashing, Soderberg took advantage of the Capitals' sloppy neutral-zone play, fishing a puck out from along the boards and springing Iginla free. Iginla finished a breakaway with a snap shot past Holtby at 2:48.

Soderberg extended the Bruins' lead to 2-0 at 7:35 with a power-play goal, deflecting Bergeron's shot from the slot just enough for it to trickle past Holtby.

Forty-one seconds later, Iginla scored again, following his own shot and depositing the rebound. Nine players in League history have more 30-goal seasons than Iginla, who has scored 10 goals in his past nine games.

The 36-year-old had four goals in his first 24 games of the season.

"Especially when you look at the start he had, nobody would have predicted that, but he's a pretty streaky goal-scorer," Julien said of Iginla. "Usually in the second half he's always pretty good, he's been getting better and better for us."

With time winding down in the second period, the Capitals made one last rush up ice. Chimera was able to slide a shot past Johnson with 10 seconds remaining to make it 3-1.

"The last five minutes of the second period, we had like three Grade-A chances," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It was like the recipe that you're supposed to do all of a sudden showed up and the rest of the game was solid."

The Capitals began the third period with renewed energy, hemming the Bruins in their zone on a dominant shift by Washington's third line that drew a penalty. The power play that followed featured several quality chances as the Capitals frantically attempted to close within a goal, but the Bruins held them off.

Boston scored an insurance goal on the power play at 13:17 when Bergeron pounced on a loose puck near the crease for his 26th of the season.

Kuznetsov scored his second goal in as many games with 55 seconds remaining, but the game by that point was out of reach.

"In the second half of the game, [Washington] found their game a little bit and were throwing pucks on net and they were going a lot more compared to the first period," Johnson said. "We just tried to weather the storm there. They got a couple lucky goals, but we were able to get the two points."

The teams play on the road Sunday; the Bruins face the Philadelphia Flyers and the Capitals visit the Nashville Predators.

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