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Bruins keep rolling as postseason approaches

by Jerry Brown

PHOENIX -- Jarome Iginla was doing his job, standing right in front of the crease and screening the eyes of Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith when Boston Bruins teammate Dougie Hamilton set up captain Zdeno Chara for one of his potent slap shots from the point that can exceed 100 miles per hour.

Chara could have missed Ignila and the net completely, or he could have given his teammate a puck-shaped tattoo for the next two weeks.

"I'm sure I would have had my eyes closed there," Bruins forward Shawn Thornton said. "I've been hit by one of those and it's not fun,"

Instead, the blast glanced off Iginla's pants and was deflected cleanly by Smith to wipe out Boston's first deficit in 20 periods of hockey.

"I wasn't moving to get it. I was just standing there and it hit me," Iginla said. "Just pure luck on my part, but it was a great shot by [Chara] trying to shoot around me."

That's how things are going for the Bruins right now: Hard work, confidence and just the right mix of making their own luck and getting some.

The 4-2 win against Phoenix on Saturday gives Boston 12 straight victories, the most since Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and the Bruins won 13 in a row in 1970-71.

"In my mind, it showed a lot of our character," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We needed to show a lot of character in the third to come back and we did. We did all the right things. We were determined to win and it showed."

So the streak rolls on, and the Bruins return home after three more road wins. Boston now has at least a point in 14 straight road games (11-0-3) dating back to a loss at Los Angeles more than 10 weeks ago on Jan. 9.

Boston will play host to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday at TD Garden. The Bruins need two wins to match the 1929-30 team, which won 14 straight in a 44-game season, the most in the 90-year history of one of the NHL's most storied franchises.

Montreal beat Boston in the first two games this season, but the Bruins won 4-1 at Montreal on March 12, victory No. 6 in the current streak.

"They are a good team and they really give us a hard time," Thornton said. "Just because we had some success in the last game doesn't mean anything going into this one."

But lately for the Bruins, it's been a fairly good indicator.

On March 1, a few days after resuming play from the Olympic break, the Washington Capitals beat the Bruins 4-2 at TD Garden. That was 22 days and 12 games ago, and since then all the Bruins have done is win – collecting 24 points, a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and all the confidence a team could want skating toward the postseason.

Beginning with a 6-3 win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 2, the Bruins have scored 50 goals in those 12 wins. They have won by two or more goals 10 times, held the opposition to two goals or less 10 times, and scored five of more three times. When they fell behind 2-1 to the Coyotes in the second period Saturday, it was only the second in the past eight games the Bruins had trailed in a game.

But Boston kept coming. Iginla's deflection tied the game, Thornton's goal with 3:18 left in regulation put them ahead and Iginla iced the game with an empty-netter in the final minute.

The Coyotes are fighting for their playoff lives and playing well (seven wins in the past nine coming in). They pushed hard in the first period with 16 shots, got a highlight-reel goal for defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the second and a string of big saves from Smith. But the Bruins never blinked, continued to roll their four lines and won all the big battles all over the ice.

Boston has scored more than 40 percent of their 227 goals (92) in the third period this season.

"When we can use our whole bench and continue to roll four lines we slowly wear teams down," Julien said. "That line was generating chances even before they scored. We rarely have to cut down to three lines unless we're fighting from behind with five or eight minutes left in a game.

"You look at our top lines and they are playing around the 17 or 18 minute mark for the most part. That keeps everyone fresh and keeps the pace of the game up to the speed that we want it to be."

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