Maple Leafs look to put crimp in Bruins' playoff hopes
BRUINS (35-30-12) at MAPLE LEAFS (29-36-13)
Boston 5-5-0; Toronto 6-3-1
This is the sixth and final meeting between the two Original Six rivals. Boston has the lead in the series with a 7-2 win on Dec. 5, a 5-2 win on Dec. 10 and a 3-2 shootout victory on Mar. 4. Toronto shut out the B's, 2-0, on Dec. 19 and in the most recent match on Mar. 9, the Leafs came away with a 4-3 overtime victory. Nikolai Kulemin
scored the winner.
The race for the last three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference will come down to a photo finish as the Bruins, the Flyers and the Canadiens have flip-flopped spots over the last few weeks. The Habs jumped into sixth with 84 points after a 1-0 win Friday over the Flyers, who are tied with the B's with 82 points. The Rangers and the Thrashers sit two points behind in ninth and 10th. Boston will have five games left to secure a playoff berth, while Toronto could play spoiler to any of the final playoff contenders as it faces the Flyers, the Rangers and the Canadiens in its final three games after taking on the Bruins.
Boston has struggled to score goals all season, never more evident than in their last two games, a 1-0 overtime win over New Jersey on Tuesday and 1-0 loss to the Panthers on Thursday. The B's outshot the Cats 36-20, but failed to get one past Scott Clemmensen.
"We could have jumped ahead of Philly and Montreal and gone four ahead of Atlanta -- that's the disappointing part," said Mark Recchi, who led Boston with six shots on goal against Florida. "For the most part, we controlled the game the whole game. That's obviously not good enough. We have to find ways to win these games."
The Bruins will also have some extra motivation to keep the Maple Leafs at the bottom of the ladder as Boston holds Toronto's first-round pick in this year's draft.
Toronto's 4-2 victory over the Sabres on Thursday was its first against its divisional rival this season, despite outshooting Buffalo in every encounter. Luke Schenn
broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and Fredrik Sjostrom
notched an empty-net goal to seal the deal. Garnet Exelby ended a 154 game goalless streak in the second period, while Viktor Stalberg also tallied. Jean-Sebastien Giguere
finished the night with 24 saves.
"It's a good thing to get off our back coming into next year," Stalberg said. "We want to show them what this team is going to be about the next couple years here."
"I don't score a lot of goals," said Exelby, who has seven in 405 NHL games. "I probably remember every single one of them."
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask leads the League with a goals-against average of 1.99 and a save percentage of .930. He is 3-2-0 in his last six with a 1.26 GAA and two shutouts. Patrice Bergeron has four points in his last five games. … For the Leafs, Stalberg has three goals in his last two games, while former Bruin Phil Kessel
leads Toronto with 55 points, but has yet to score against his former team this season.
B's center Marc Savard (concussion) is expected to miss the rest of the season, while defenseman Andrew Ference (groin/hernia) did not make the trip to Toronto. Shawn Thornton missed Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury, but practiced on Friday. … Maple Leafs defensemen Mike Komisarek
(shoulder surgery) and Mike Van Ryn
(left knee surgery) will not return this season.
Rask, who was drafted with the 21st pick by Toronto in 2005, is 3-1-0 with a GAA of 2.01 against the Leafs.
"We have really, really focused on our team and how we need to play and we have mentioned it all along. When everybody is going, it doesn’t matter who we play. We play well, so we have put a lot of focus on ourselves to make sure we get the same type of game night in and night out. As long as you don’t have 20 guys going on a regular basis, you get the ups and downs." -- Bruins coach Claude Julien