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Bruins edge Flyers for third straight

by Brian Hunter
It's beginning to appear that the Boston Bruins have put a troubling lull behind them and are gearing up for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tim Thomas stopped a season-high 45 shots and Milan Lucic scored a pair of goals Sunday night in a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center, extending Boston's lead in the Eastern Conference to seven points over Washington. The Bruins have seven regular-season games left, the Capitals six.

Dennis Wideman scored on the power play and Mark Recchi reached 20 goals for the 16th time in his career as the Bruins won their third in a row and improved to 4-1-1 in their last five.

"It's good to come home from a road trip with four points," Thomas said after Boston followed up on a 7-5 win in Toronto on Saturday. "It's big after where we were a couple weeks ago, struggling. Now we've put three wins together in a row, so that's definitely a positive."

Bruins coach Claude Julien agreed, saying his team looked sharper than it had facing the Leafs following a five-day layoff.

"I think (Saturday) night you saw a little rust in our game as far as our defensive assignments were concerned, but tonight was much better," Julien said. "Hopefully we just keep getting better here and keep building toward the playoffs."

Boston responded to an early goal by Philadelphia rookie Claude Giroux to take a 3-1 lead after first period. The Bruins held the Flyers off despite late goals in the second and third periods by Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, respectively.

Philadelphia missed an opportunity to close to within four points of idle New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead. Each team now has seven games left. The Flyers remained fourth in the conference standings, one point ahead of Carolina and two up on Pittsburgh.

"We've played catch up two nights in a row," coach John Stevens said, referring to the team's 4-3 comeback victory on Saturday against the Islanders. "It caught up with us tonight."

Giroux converted Arron Asham's pass to score his sixth of the season from the side of the net 4:56 into the game. The Flyers outshot the Bruins 16-15 in the first, but fell behind after Lucic sandwiched a pair of goals around one by Wideman, all in a span of just over seven minutes.

Lucic finished off a 2-on-1 break with Michael Ryder to tie the game at 10:39 and Wideman put Boston in front to stay by putting a slap shot through a screen and past Antero Niittymaki during a two-man advantage with 6:05 left in the period. Lucic added his 16th of the season from inside the left circle 2:06 before the intermission. David Krejci assisted on all three of the goals.

"We wanted to come out hard," Lucic said. "We got the momentum on our side and we just controlled the second and third period."

 Thomas helped the Bruins protect the lead and kill 1:52 of a two-man advantage for the Flyers in the second, making key saves on Scott Hartnell and Mike Knuble.

"I probably should have shot the puck right away," said Hartnell, who was denied on a diving save by Thomas. "He’s very athletic, very unorthodox. I shot the puck where he was and he 'Supermanned' it right across."

"Our guys did a great job, especially on that 5-on-3 that they had for almost two minutes," Julien said. "I think that was probably a turning point in the game. If they score on that power play it could have been different."

Richards ended up making it 3-2 before the second was over, redirecting a Ryan Parent shot past Thomas with 2:11 left, but Recchi restored the two-goal cushion 4:21 into the third, reaching around defenseman Braydon Coburn to poke home the rebound of a Chuck Kobasew shot.

"That was a bad rebound," Niittymaki said. "The second shot surprised me. That one was my bad."

Gagne once again brought the Flyers within one by connecting off a goalmouth scramble with 1:12 remaining and Niittymaki on the bench for an extra attacker, but the Bruins held firm the rest of the way.

Senators 3, Lightning 0 | Video

Ottawa's late run has probably come a little too late, but Brian Elliott is seizing the opportunity to show what he can do.

Elliott stopped all 20 shots he faced for his first NHL shutout as the Senators won for the 10th time in 13 games. He's now 16-6-3 for the season and should provide the team with a solid goaltending tandem for next season once Pascal Leclaire, acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline, is healthy.

"That's what you go for every night, so to finally get one, it feels pretty good," Elliott said. "I think it's satisfying for the whole team. We come out -- if we're ahead -- a little sloppy in the third and teams have taken advantage of that. I just had to make a couple of saves, and (my teammates) put the puck in the net pretty well tonight."

Ryan Shannon ran his goal streak to four straight games while Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza scored on the power play for Ottawa, which remained alive in the playoff race, 10 points behind eighth-place Montreal with just seven games remaining.

"We still aren't eliminated mathematically," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "Obviously that's something that we would like to get, but our focus is one game at a time and whatever happens, happens."

Karri Ramo made 26 saves and was the lone bright spot for the Lightning, who have the worst home record in the League. They've won just 12 games this season at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"Overall it wasn't one of our better efforts," rookie forward Steven Stamkos said. "We didn't play that poorly, we just didn't generate enough offense and when you don't score, you don't win."

Heatley capitalized after a cross-checking penalty on Matt Lashoff, scoring his 35th of the season at 9:45 of the first period. Shannon made it 2-0 on an unassisted goal with 6:16 left, sliding the puck through the legs of Ramo and getting a lucky break when Lashoff tried to clear it away but instead put it off Ramo's leg and into the net.

Ottawa carried that lead deep into the third before Spezza reached the 30-goal plateau and added some insurance with 3:19 remaining.

Elliott faced only eight shots over the final 40 minutes after making 12 saves in the first period.

"There was a shot here and a shot there that could've changed the game," Heatley said. "(Elliott) made some big saves when the game was still up for grabs."

Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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