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Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bruins' First Line Drops By For A Productive Visit

One of the more incredible aspects of the Bruins' excellent start to this season is that they have completely weathered Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton being ghosts in so many games. Saturday afternoon served as a reminder to how dangerous the B's (19-4-3) can be when those guys are engaged and playing their physical style. Boston rolled to an easy 4-1 win over Washington (11-15-1) at TD Garden.

There was something for every hockey fan as the B's scored pretty goals, beat up the hapless Capitals in three fights (Brad Marchand vs. Mike Ribeiro, Horton vs. Matt Hendricks and Adam McQuaid vs. Hendricks) and received stellar goaltending by Anton Khudobin (32 saves; 5-2-0). It was exactly the type of performance they needed to build up the first line's shaky confidence heading into a monster game tomorrow afternoon (12:30 p.m., NBC) in Pittsburgh.

Horton made it 1-0 at 14:12 of the first period on a one-timer from Lucic and Zdeno Chara. It was Horton's eighth goal of the season but first since February 28. Lucic set a career-high with three assists and he found David Krejci for another one-timer and goal just 3:03 after Horton's tally. Horton had the second assist on Krejci's seventh goal of the season.

Washington deserved to get blanked but the hockey gods allowed them one gift when Krejci banked one in off Johnny Boychuk's skate, past Khudobin at 1:24 of the second period. It was a pretty awful moment that was quickly forgotten when Andrew Ference picked up his first goal of the season less than seven minutes later. Horton created the goal with a pretty drop pass, Krejci had the other assist as his relay to Horton started the play.

Rich Peverley potted a backhander (his 4th goal of the season) on the power-play at 2:41 of the third period, an early St. Patrick's Day Eve miracle. Lucic and Krejci had the assists. Today's game was really chippy, these teams clearly don't like each other. Too bad that their next meeting-April 27 in DC-is the regular season finale and by then, both teams could have nothing to play for. That's assuming that Washington doesn't wake up in time to make a run at the playoffs.

For Bruins fans, it doesn't get much better than tomorrow's game (OK, being in Boston would be perfect) as the Bruins visit the Penguins (21-8-0, 1st in Atlantic Division). You might remember Pittsburgh from their 3-2 win over Boston on Tuesday at the Consol Energy Center, after the B's blew a 2-0 lead. The Penguins are the top team in the Eastern Conference and hottest team in the NHL with eight straight wins after today's 3-0 shutout of the Rangers. As long as Montreal doesn't win tonight in New Jersey, it will pit the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

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