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Bruins top Devils for five-point lead

by Brian Hunter
The Boston Bruins picked an opportune time to start playing like the team that dominated the Eastern Conference for much of this season.

With the New Jersey Devils in town and looking to climb within a single point of the top seed, Tim Thomas stopped 41 shots and Michael Ryder and Marc Savard contributed a goal and an assist as the Bruins claimed a 4-1 win Sunday afternoon at TD Banknorth Garden and clinched the Northeast Division.

Chuck Kobasew and Milan Lucic also scored for Boston, which leads the East with 102 points, now five more than New Jersey. After racing out to a 39-8-6 mark, the Bruins are just 7-9-4 over their last 20 games.

"Lately we've been wasting a lot of energy just thinking about getting the win and forgetting how to get the win," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If you play well enough, the outcome would take care of itself."

Andy Greene had the lone goal for the Devils, who have lost two of three. Martin Brodeur made 26 saves but was victimized by a pair of Bruins goals that deflected off his own players and into the net.

"We made a couple of mistakes," said Brodeur, 9-2-0 since returning from biceps surgery. "We paid the price, even though they were some lucky goals on the power play they got, it was still opportunities that we gave up that usually we don't do."

The teams were scoreless in the first until a bench minor on the Devils for too many men on the ice gave the Bruins the game's first power play. Mark Recchi centered the puck from the right side, where it went off Ryder and continued to the other side of the slot where it struck the skate of New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin and got past Brodeur with 3:38 left in the period.

The Bruins took control of the game in the middle 20 minutes, with Kobasew connecting off Bergeron's feed from the left corner at 1:52 and Savard converting another power-play chance at 6:19 for a 3-0 lead.

"We really wanted this game," Savard said. "The biggest game of the year for us, the way we've been going, and we certainly proved we can do it."

Greene, a defenseman, jumped up into the play and redirected a Jamie Langenbrunner feed with 7:16 left in the second, getting the Devils on the board. But Lucic restored the Bruins' three-goal lead with 2:34 to play before intermission, cutting in on the left side and throwing a shot at the net that went in off the stick of Mike Mottau.

It's about time," defenseman Aaron Ward said of the deflections. "We've had a few of those go against us."

Thomas held the Devils off the board in the third despite their 17-3 advantage in shots and lowered to 2.11 his NHL-leading goals-against average.

"We're not making proclamations that it's all corrected," Ward said, "but it's a step in the right direction, especially timing-wise. With all this time off, it's something to build on."

Boston has five days off before returning to the ice Saturday against Toronto, while New Jersey is right back in action Monday night in Philadelphia.

"We get the chance to get right back at it, so that's a good thing," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "But we do have to play better on the road, especially our specialty teams."

Senators 2, Rangers 1
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Ottawa's second-half surge continued, as Alex Auld turned aside 28 shots and the Senators made it five straight victories and nine wins in their last 10 games. They're 15-6-3 since Cory Clouston was named coach.

"Since Cory's taking the reins, things are going pretty well," said Ryan Shannon, who scored the go-ahead goal 1:09 into the third period. "Our record shows that, the feeling in the room is a lot better, guys play with confidence. You can play the 'what if' game, but things are going well right now, we don't want to mess with it."

Mike Comrie also scored for the Senators, who are now 32-30-10 after spending much of the season below the .500 mark. They're still seven points out of a playoff spot with only 10 games remaining.

Brandon Dubinsky scored early in the first period, his first goal in 24 games, and Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves, but the Rangers saw a run of three straight wins and four in a row at Madison Square Garden come to an end. They stayed in seventh place, three ahead of Montreal and four in front of ninth-place Florida.

"I thought the game was sloppy by both teams," New York coach John Tortorella said. "It was one of those games where you're about to make a play and you can't get it done. You're trying to make a pass and it's picked off. You turn a puck over when you should be making an easy play -- by both teams, I thought.

"But when you get to the third period, it's 1-1, that's where you need to try to find a way to grind one out."

Instead, a Scott Gomez turnover at the Ottawa blue line led to Mike Fisher carrying the puck the other way. Fisher passed to Nick Foligno, who crossed into the Rangers' end and dropped a pass back for Shannon. The native of Darien, Conn., who grew up a Rangers fan and was at the Garden for Wayne Gretzky's last NHL game, cut past defenseman Wade Redden and beat Lundqvist for his fifth goal of the season.

"I'm at a loss for words right now. It's a dream come true really," Shannon said. "I've got about 30 friends and family up in the box, a lot of people waiting to see me after the game. This is my first game at MSG, it's kind of surreal."

Dubinsky, who last scored on Jan. 27, needed only 2:18 of the first period to net his ninth of the season. Ryan Callahan's hustle behind the Ottawa cage to beat Auld to a Sean Avery dump-in paid off as Dubinsky snapped in Callahan's pass before the goalie could get back into position.

''After the little bit of a miscue we had on the first goal, I thought (Auld) was our best player,'' Clouston said. ''He played very well and looked composed and was very deserving of the win.''

Comrie, returning from a three-game absence due to the flu, tied the score at 6:09 of the second period. After his original shot was blocked by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi, he got to the loose puck in the slot and backhanded it through traffic and past Lundqvist.

Coming off a big win over Buffalo on Saturday night, Lundqvist said the Rangers weren't overlooking the Senators in any way just because they're on the outside of the playoff picture.

"Their record is really good lately, so they're not a bad team," he said. "There's no easy games. Coming in here, they had a great record. We didn't expect it to be easy. I don't think we were tired. We tried our best, that's for sure."

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

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