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Bruins clinch playoff berth by blanking Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski /

DENVER -- Goalie Chad Johnson made 31 saves and the Boston Bruins defeated the Colorado Avalanche 2-0 at Pepsi Center on Friday night to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with their 11th consecutive win.

Boston (48-17-5) leads the Eastern Conference with 101 points, the same number as the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues (47-15-7), who have played one fewer game.

"We still have to play our hockey and really focus on the little details going into the playoffs," said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, whose team will try to make it 12 wins in a row Saturday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. "Not being satisfied or complacent and keep pushing our team."

The Bruins haven't lost since a 4-2 defeat to the Washington Capitals on March 1. They've gone 10-0-3 in their past 13 road games and haven't lost in regulation on the road since a 4-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 9.

"I think it's committing to our system and not really looking at the streak," said Johnson, who recorded his second shutout of the season. He is 10-0-1 in his past 11 decisions, allowing two goals or fewer in nine of them. "We've just sort of prepared for a game as a new one. We don't really worry about how many we've won or who we're playing in two days or three days, we just worry about who's next.

"I made some saves, but there were two pucks laying there that I tried to cover up and they jumped out underneath my glove and they were laying around. The guys did a good job of battling in front of me. I had a lot of pucks laying around that shouldn't have been and they did a good job of clearing them out for me."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov for a sixth skater with five minutes to play in the third period, but the Avalanche were shut out for the first time since a 4-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on April 6, 2013, a stretch of 80 games.

"Losing 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, we needed to score goals," Roy said. "There was no reason for me to wait because I thought we were doing so well offensively. We spent a lot of time in their zone and I felt comfortable. If they score with four minutes left in the game and make it 3-0, big deal. I know to score two goals against these guys you need a lot of time. We had plenty of scoring chances. Unfortunately tonight the puck didn't bounce our way and their goalie made some good saves."

Colorado (44-21-6), third in the Central Division, fell three points behind the second-place Chicago Blackhawks (41-15-15), who defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2. The Avalanche and Blackhawks each have 12 games left in the regular season.

The Avalanche have gone 1-3-1 since defeating the Blackhawks 3-2 on March 12, a win that moved them into second place in the division by one point.

"I thought we played an outstanding game," Roy said. "I guess we have nothing to show for it right now, but I thought it was very positive. We had a lot of good chances early on. We outshot them almost double at some point midway in the game. Except for maybe six or seven minutes at the start of the third I thought we played better than them and their goalie played really well. He made some great saves and they know how to win. It's a team that has played a lot of playoff hockey in the past years and they certainly know how to play that game. But I'm very pleased."

The Bruins took a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal by Carl Soderberg at 13:11 of the second period with the Avalanche's Gabriel Landeskog in the penalty box for interfering with Andrej Meszaros. Using Loui Eriksson as a screen, Soderberg took a shot from the right circle that sailed over Varlamov's right shoulder. Dougie Hamilton picked up his second assist of the game on the play.

Johnson made two big saves in the period before Soderberg scored, stopping Maxime Talbot's backhander after skating down the middle and turning aside Jan Hejda from just outside the crease after Matt Duchene passed in front.

"He stopped the pucks," Bruins coach Claude Julien said." He had to get better after the first because there were a lot of loose pucks around the net. I think our whole team got better throughout the game. When you give up 14 shots in the first and some pretty good scoring chances, Chad did a pretty good job for us."

The Avalanche outshot the Bruins 14-6 in the first period, but Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by Patrice Bergeron at 5:12.

Chara pressured the Avalanche into a turnover and Hamilton kept the puck in at the blue line. He passed to Bergeron skating down the slot for a shot that Varlamov stopped. But Bergeron was able to slide the rebound under Varlamov's outstretched left pad for his 21st goal of the season.

The Bruins killed all three of the Avalanche's power plays. Colorado didn't have a shot on goal for the first 12 minutes of the third period, and when they got one it came on a power play with Shawn Thornton serving a holding penalty.

"I think our power play has to be better than that, especially at that point of the game, and it certainly wasn't," Landeskog said. "It's something we have to work on, but some nights it's like that and tonight was one of them. Give credit where credit is due. (Johnson) played well and they're a good defensive team. They know how to keep us on the outside, chipping pucks out and making us turn and go back and get them. It's certainly understandable why they've been so successful lately."

Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk took part in the pregame warmup, but he was scratched for the third consecutive game because of a foot injury.

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