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Thursday, April 7, 2016

With Their Backs Against the Wall, the Bruins Respond With a Big-Time 5-2 Win vs. Red Wings

For such an arbitrary number like 82, it is still amazing that the entire 2015-16 Bruins season comes down to Saturday's finale vs. Ottawa (37-35-9). After peeing down their leg in Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Hurricanes (35-30-16), Boston (42-30-9) bounced back in a huge way with a 5-2 victory against the Red Wings (41-29-11) tonight at TD Garden. They picked a fine time to play their best home game of the season (17-17-6) since they had very little margin for error remaining.

Philadelphia's (39-27-14) 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto this evening means that the B's currently are the second Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. At the risk of giving you an ice cream headache, Boston is also tied with Detroit for points (93) but the Red Wings have one more regulation plus overtime win (39) than them which is the first tiebreaker. While the Bruins are playing the Senators on Saturday afternoon (12:30, NESN), Detroit will be at the Rangers and later on the Flyers host the Penguins (48-25-8). It's quite possible that nothing will be decided in terms of the second Wild Card until Sunday night when Philadelphia travels to Brooklyn to face the Islanders (45-26-9) in one of only two games leaguewide that day.

Haha got that all? Good, me neither. For once, it was nice though to see the Bruins play with some urgency. Hell, they scored more goals in the first 2:44 against the Red Wings than they did in 65 minutes vs. the Hurricanes. David Pastrnak broke free for a breakaway and tucked in a backhander past Jimmy Howard at 1:25. John-Michael Liles hit him with a stretch pass and Colin Miller had the other assist on Pastrnak's 14th goal of the season. Before you could say 2016 Bruins Seventh Player Award winner Brad Marchand (which he picked up before this game), he buried his team-leading 37th goal of the season at 2:44 on a one-timer from Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron.

Speaking of Krug, he broke an absurd 54-game goal-less stretch by making it 3-0 Bruins at 5:02 in the second period. His power play goal was his fourth tally of the season and first since Dec. 5, 2015 vs. Vancouver. Loui Eriksson and David Krejci notched the helpers on the goal that hopefully gets Krug back on track. Detroit clearly gave everything they possessed to pick up a vital 3-0 win last night vs. Philadelphia so they had nothing left for this one (as evidenced by their 15 total shots on goal). Defenseman Alexey Marchenko cut it to 3-1 Boston at 6:59 of the second when his shot from the point eluded Tuukka Rask (13 saves).

Boston was up 3-1 after two periods and they sealed it early in the third with another flurry of goals. Lee Stempniak put it a rebound 20 seconds in (from Krug and Marchand) for his 19th goal of the season and Eriksson deflected in Krejci's redirect from Spooner 25 seconds later for his 30th goal of the season. That ended Howard's outing and forced Detroit to use former starter Petr Mrazek for almost all of the final frame. Good luck figuring out which of those guys will start vs. New York. It's the second time in Eriksson's career (36 in 2008-09 with Dallas) that he's reached that plateau and it also meant that the Bruins have a trio of 30-goal scorers for the first time since 2002-03 (Marchand, Bergeron and Eriksson). Rookie forward Andreas Athanasiou potted a garbage time goal if I've ever seen one with 1:23 left in regulation that made it 5-2 Bruins.

So there we go, everything hinges on Saturday for the Black and Gold. To make things easier on themselves, a one-sided regulation win like this would keep that good mojo going for whatever it's worth (absolutely nothing). All they can control is themselves but Boston will need some more help to reach the 2016 postseason. Otherwise, to miss the playoffs for the second straight year (and to do it in the last possible game) would make for another brutally long off-season for everyone (players, coaches, front office, fans, media, etc). Plus, there is no way that head coach Claude Julien could keep his job, right? As the late great Raiders owner Al Davis always said, "just win baby!"

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