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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bruins Sweep the Five-Game Season Series With Panthers and Win Their Fourth Straight Game

It's been a very good week for the Bruins (42-30-6) as they inched closer to their first playoff spot in three years by beating the Panthers (33-34-11) 5-2 this afternoon at TD Garden for their fourth win in a row. PS that might have been the most misleading three-goal win in recent NHL history. Boston improved to 9-2-0 in afternoon games this season as the Garden crowd bid farewell to former Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton (playing in his final NHL season) who still lives in Charlestown in the summer. Tuukka Rask (24 saves in his 36th win of the season) has allowed three total goals in the last three games, stopping 75 out of 78 shots. Haha does anybody still think that backup goaltender Anton Khudobin should start over him?

Rookie Noel Acciari scored another big goal for the B's as he opened the proceedings late in the first period. He blocked a shot then went in on a breakaway-while fighting off Panthers defenseman Jakub Kindl-and beat the immortal Reto Berra (24 saves) for his second goal of the season. The second period had way more excitement as both teams potted a pair of goals. Thomas Vanek was the beneficiary of a puck that bounced in off of David Krejci's skate at 1:38. Patrice Bergeron put Boston back ahead with a shot off a rebound from Zdeno Chara and David Pastrnak at 7:56. Forget Tom Brady (never!), the real ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr knotted things at two with a power play goal at 9:53. Milton native Keith Yandle and Jonathan Marchessault assisted on Jagr's 16th goal of the season and only the 765th of his incredible NHL career. Krejci and the B's received a lucky bounce to retake the lead as Berra cleared the puck right to him along the boards so he could fire it in for his 23rd goal of the season at 14:30.

Florida has nothing to play for but pride (and jobs) at this point but give them credit for competing all game long (well except for much of the 1st period). In fact, they outshot Boston 13-5 in the third and really dominated puck possession and zone time but they couldn't find a way to put another shot past Rask. Vanek was called for a late high-sticking penalty and that's when the Black and Gold put it in the win column. Brad Marchand roofed a rebound on the doorstep (his 39th goal of the season) from Ryan Spooner and Pastrnak at 18:16 for a 4-2 advantage. Bergeron added an empty-netter with 12 seconds left in regulation for his 20th goal of the campaign (the 8th time he's done that in his storied Bruins career).

The Bruins head to Chicago tonight to face the Blackhawks (50-21-7) tomorrow afternoon (12:30, NBC). It's a foregone conclusion that Chicago will be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs and a win vs. Boston would officially clinch that. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy reiterated what he had said on Friday: Khudobin will get the start vs. Blackhawks. Also, not that anyone would notice but Jimmy Hayes suffered a lower-body injury in today's contest so he was deemed day-to-day and it sounds like some unnamed forward from Providence will be called up to replace him. It's the last road game of the regular season for the B's as they wrap up 2016-17 with three more on home ice next week (vs. Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Washington).

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