By: Jeff Playdon | Follow me on Twitter @PlaydonJeff
Coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a shootout, the Bruins hosted the Atlanta Thrashers in a sold-out TD Garden Saturday night. If the Bruins were able to win tonight, they would clinch the Northeast division. The Bruins would be facing off against ex-teammates Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, who were part of a trade back in February for Rich Peverley. Shane Hnidy would finally make his season debut for the Boston Bruins. Hnidy missed the entire season after having surgery on his shoulder. The Bruins would be without Shawn Thornton, Steven Kampfer, and Adam McQuaid, while Atlanta would be without Patrice Cormier and Radek Dvorak. Tuukka Rask would get the starting nod for Boston while Tim Thomas got some much-needed rest. Atlanta’s starting goaltender was Ondrej Pavelec.
Tied after one
The game was on, and Boston came out firing on all cylinders. Just 4:34 into the first, veteran winger Mark Recchi put the Bruins on top 1-0. Recchi was able to get the goal after a backhand shot from Brad Marchand, and Recchi was in the crease able to pick up the scraps. The period continued, and both teams struggled to get shots on the net. Shortly after the halfway mark, Tuukka Rask was called for delay of game, and Atlanta was on the first powerplay of the game. Just seconds into the powerplay, Dustin Byfuglien potted his 20th goal of the season on just the third shot of the game for the Thrashers.
Minutes later, Boston could not find themselves staying out of the penalty box when Michael Ryder was called for tripping, and Atlanta was on the powerplay once again. Boston was able to kill off this penalty and, shortly after, found themselves on the powerplay when Alexander Burmistrov was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Thrashers killed off the penalty and the period quickly came to a close. After one, the Bruins only had four shots on goal while Atlanta had just six. If the Bruins wanted to win this game, they had to get more shots on Ondrej Pavelec and stay out of the penalty box.
Still tied after two
The second period was underway, and Boston made an early crucial mistake. After a disorganized play in their own zone, Evander Kane was able to pounce on Boston’s mistake and rip one past Tuukka Rask to make it 2-1 Atlanta. Boston’s mistakes continued in the period when Shane Hnidy was whistled off for a delay of game and Atlanta was on its third powerplay of the night. 31 seconds into the penalty kill for Boston, Daniel Paille made an outstanding effort after creating a turnover in the Atlanta zone, grabbed the puck from the air, and beat Pavelec from the left circle to tie the game at two. As the second progressed, Patrice Bergeron had multiple quality chances to give the Bruins the lead, but Pavelec was able to stop him on every chance. The second quickly came to a close, and the game was tied, heading into the final period. Both teams managed to get 11 shots on the net, and it looked like we were in for an entertaining third period.
Ryder gets the Gamewinner/Bruins clinch Northeast, Division
Third-period action was underway, and another early mistake in a period for Boston almost cost them. At the 5:21 mark, disorganization in the Bruins zone almost led to an Atlanta goal to give them the lead. The mistake was caused by Boston failing to clear the puck multiple times, and Atlanta’s Nik Antropov had a clear shot at Tuukka Rask. However, Rask was able to make the save, and the game was still tied at two. Two minutes past the halfway mark of the third, Michael Ryder was awarded a penalty shot after Thrashers’ defenseman Johnny Oduya took down Michael Ryder. Ryder converted on the penalty shot after beating Ondrej Pavelec glove high, and Boston was up 3-2. It was Ryder’s 18th goal of the season, and Boston looked to hold off the Thrashers. As the final minute of the game approached, Atlanta head coach Craig Ramsay called a timeout and pulled Ondrej Pavelec for the extra man. Even with the extra man, Atlanta could not pot the tying goal, and the Bruins held on for a 3-2 win.
Even though it wasn’t the prettiest of wins for Boston, they would take it. The win clinched the Northeast division for the Bruins, which meant they would get the advantage of home-ice for the first round of the playoffs. Although Atlanta managed to outshoot Boston 30-24, Boston converted on opportunities when they had the chance. The three stars of the game were Daniel Paille (shorthanded goal), Patrice Bergeron (one assist, three shots on goal), and Michael Ryder (game-winning goal off a penalty shot). The Bruins looked to move up in the standings when they would face the New York Rangers on April 4th in Madison Square Garden.