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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Far From a Masterpiece but the Bruins Still Picked Up Their 3rd Straight Win, 2-0 vs. Stars

At this time of the year in an NHL regular season, all that matters is the final result and point accumulation if you are still anywhere close to the playoff hunt. Boston (41-30-6) blanked Dallas (31-35-11) 2-0 tonight at TD Garden in a contest that was a complete snoozefest but B's fans won't be complaining after Tuukka Rask (27 saves) recorded his seventh shutout of this campaign. With those two points, the Bruins pulled to within three points of second-place Ottawa (41-26-9) and remained one point behind third-place Toronto (37-24-15) who both have a game in hand. Tampa Bay (38-29-9) is still three points in back of Boston while Carolina (35-27-14) has leapfrogged the Islanders (35-29-12) to pull four points behind the B's.

Last season's No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, the Stars have been a dumpster fire basically all year and they have already been eliminated from playoff contention. With a lineup sprinkled with minor league players, they looked the part of a team watching the clock before their miserable journey ends next week. Poor NBC Sports was left with this dog's breakfast of a matchup that lived down to that low billing. Brad Marchand gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 15:14 of the first period after he backhanded in a shot off of Dallas goaltender Antti Niemi's (22 saves) leg pads. David Backes had slid the puck across the goal-mouth to Marchand who potted his career-high 38th goal of the season (the most for a Bruin since Glen Murray's 44 in 2002-03).

Jason Spezza was called for hooking early in the second period and that's when Boston's power play made the Stars pay dearly. Torey Krug went to the net and re-directed a beautiful feed by David Pastrnak for his eighth goal of the season (and 50th point). Marchand had the other assist as he has piled up 83 points so far meaning that he deserves the third and fourth-place Hart Trophy votes that he will receive. Tyler Seguin was back in Boston for a little while (sorry ladies) but he didn't make much of an impact tonight besides two wide open shots in front that somehow missed the net completely both times, like his ex-teammate Rich Peverley used to do oh so many times.

Boston was on its way to an easy victory until Kevan Miller's caught Curtis McKenzie in the face with the blade of his stick. With blood immediately gushing everywhere, Miller had to serve a double-minor (4 minutes) with 8:52 left in regulation. That's when Boston's No. 3 ranked penalty kill unit in the NHL came through against Dallas' horrid power play (No. 20 in the NHL). The Stars had some chances all game long but Rask didn't have to work all that hard for the 37th shutout of his NHL career (his 1st vs. Dallas).

It should be an interesting weekend as the B's host another patsy-the Panthers (33-33-11)-who was officially eliminated from playoff contention tonight thanks to Boston's win. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn't tip his hand but I expect that Rask will get the start on Saturday afternoon (1, NESN) here against Florida and then backup Anton Khudobin will get the unenviable task of facing the Blackhawks (49-21-7) on Sunday afternoon (12:30, NBC) at the United Center. I think you have to start Rask in the much more winnable game and each contest is still very important to the B's but Chicago is in the Western Conference so you're not as worried about them at this moment. We shall see, I can only say with certainty that each tilt has to be more entertaining than this evening's slop.

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