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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Bruins Reach 1st-Place in Atlantic Division for 1st Time This Season, By Losing 3-2 in OT to Carolina


In the most Bruins of 2015-16 way possible, the team has finally reached first-place in the Atlantic Division for the first time all season yet that is little solace to them after they fell 3-2 in overtime tonight at TD Garden vs. Carolina (31-26-11). Something named Philip Di Giuseppe (which sounds like a side character from The Sopranos) had the game-winning goal at 1:30 for the Hurricanes. Boston still hasn't reached the .500 mark at home (15-16-5) but the point earned from their fourth straight overtime contest was enough to propel them ahead of idle Tampa Bay (83 points) and Florida (who beat Ottawa 6-2 to also reach 83 points). The problem is that the Lightning and Panthers both have two games in hand over Boston (38-23-8) but I guess that we'll worry about that later.

The Hurricanes never trailed as their terrible power play (ranked No. 23 in the NHL coming into this evening) made it 1-0 just 5:06 into the game. Elias Lindholm's shot from the point trickled past Tuukka Rask (25 saves) for his ninth goal of the season. Norwood MA native (and BC product) Noah Hanifin and Riley Nash had the assists after Patrice Bergeron had been called for high-sticking. Carolina led 1-0 despite being outshot 8-5 in the opening frame.

Boston tied it at 5:13 of the second period when Patrice Bergeron hit Loui Eriksson with a beautiful cross-ice pass, right on his tape. Eriksson didn't get much on the one-timer, in fact Cam Ward (30 saves) almost stopped it with his paddle, but it still went in the net. Torey Krug had the second assist on Erikkson's 25th goal of the season (also his 5th NHL season of 50+ points). Ryan Spooner had a breakaway for the B's but his backhander went wide; Carolina came back down the other end of the ice and scored as another BC guy (Nathan Gerbe) poked in a rebound at 8:34. Rask made the initial stop on Chris Terry with Nash picking up another helper on Gerbe's third goal of the season. Carolina was up (2-1) heading into the second intermission.

David Pastrnak did what maybe only he could do on the Bruins when he sniped a shot by Ward's short-side at 5:54 of the third period. David Krejci assisted on Pastrnak's 10th goal of the season with a nice stretch pass along the boards, culminating in a glimpse of Pasta's immense potential that we get to see from time to time. By winning in overtime at Florida on Monday (5-4 on Lee Stempniak's goal) and at Tampa Bay on Tuesday (1-0 on Brad Marchand's tally), it felt like the Bruins were due for a loss. Hanifin-who recently turned 19 and is going to be a superstar in the NHL-actually started the winning play by passing back to Ward (when do you ever see that in hockey?) before Hanifin found Jeff Skinner for a breakaway. Once again, Rask had the first shot covered but Di Giuseppe was there to jam in the rebound through Bergeron (who fell back into the net trying to block it).

The Bruins are back in action on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) as they host Johnny Boychuk and the Islanders (37-20-8). Boston has had plenty of success against New York these last few seasons but the Isles are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. New York is in its own divisional race, trying to get second-place in the Metropolitan Division behind Washington with the Rangers two points ahead of them (Islanders have two games in hand though). As B's head coach Claude Julien said after the overtime loss, he expects a better performance from his club on Saturday and so do I. For whatever reason, since the trade deadline Boston has played better against the contenders and slipped a bit against the pretenders (like Carolina, not the band).



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