PHOTO CREDITS: (The Canadian Press)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

The path to the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs can become official tonight for the Boston Bruins. With only one point, the Bruins will clinch the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. That said, it won’t be an easy task to get a point. The Bruins have lost their last three games for the first time this season and with key injuries, Boston will need to play smart hockey today to get the win.

On the other side, the Penguins haven’t had the greatest start to the month of April. In seven games thus far, they’ve won only two games for a 2-4-1 record. However, the Penguins have already clinched their playoff appearance, so losing now isn’t a massive deal for them. In their last time out, Pittsburgh took a 6-3 win over the Islanders on Thursday.

Pre-Game Notes:

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (45-24-5)

Away: Pittsburgh Penguins (43-22-11)

Bruins’ Last Game: 3-2 loss vs OTT

Bruins’ Gameday Lineup:

Bruins forward David Pastrnak (undisclosed) and defenceman Hampus Lindholm (lower body) remains out of the lineup while defenceman Brandon Carlo is back in for Josh Brown and forward Trent Frederic is in for Tomas Nosek. Goaltender Linus Ullmark (upper body) is also out, Troy Grosenick will backup Jeremy Swayman.

First Period:

“Message sent and received” – Jack Edwards. Trent Frederic, a healthy scratch last game, buries the game’s first goal less than one minute into this game. Bruins come out with heavy pressure early and fast-moving legs, getting some zone time from the first few lines. Craig Smith throws a shot on Casey DeSmith who is a tad out of position, rebound falls in front of him, and Frederic pots in the backhand rebound. 1-0 Bruins.

Bruins aren’t done there. Not long after the first goal by Frederic, the Bruins come back into the Penguins’ zone. Erik Haula ends up throwing a shot towards the area of the crease just to puck a put on the net and it deflects off Pittsburgh defenceman Marcus Pettersson in front, Boston out to a very early two-goal lead.

Penguins have had a few shifts with decent puck possession in Boston’s end, but the Bruins have done a good job preventing any true high-quality chances and have been forcing the Penguins to fire long-distance shots that Swayman can easily swallow up. Bergeron with some incredible backcheck as well, but that’s typical.

With less than five to go in the first, Marchand brings the puck into the zone, trying to cut across the crease while driving hard to the net, and draws a penalty on Mike Matheson and the struggling Bruins power-play tries to cash in. Right off the ensuing faceoff, Marchand rips a shot off the post – nothing doing on that chance. Yet again, another abysmal man-advantage for this team that is now 0-for-24 in their last six games and a period.

Snake-bitten Brad Marchand continues to get chances to bury one. Patrice Bergeron with another fantastic backcheck, sending Jake DeBrusk ahead for a two-on-one with Marchand on the other side. DeBrusk finds Marchand, but DeSmith makes the save. Boston retains possession and finds Marchand open with DeSmith out of the net, but a sprawling Penguins defender blocks a shot before Derek Forbot’s shot gets smothered by DeSmith.

Teddy Blueger gets a last-second chance on goal as Guentzel wins the icing race, finding Blueger in the slot, but Swayman makes the stop. Strong opening frame from Boston.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 10 PIT: 6

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Frederic (6) Assists: Smith (17); Haula (15) Assists: Reilly (12)

Second Period:

Pittsburgh is looking like the better team in the early stages of the second period. They have their legs back after a slower start to the game and are getting more shots on Swayman. Bruins are getting some good breakouts, but the Pens are doing a good job cutting off the opportunities. The ice isn’t tilted right now, close game.

Boston’s third and fourth lines have a couple of solid shifts with good forecheck and pressure in Pittsburgh’s zone, but unfortunately, the Penguins come back the other way on a 2-on-2 break. Danton Heinen ends up wristing a floater that may have deflected off of Brandon Carlo’s stick ever-so-slightly, beating Swayman. Heinen, the former Bruin, now has three goals in his last two games against Boston as well as a new career-high in goals.

Pittsburgh continues heavy pressure offensively on Boston as John Marino finds Jake Guentzel cross-zone for an open shot that Jeremy Swayman stops with the pads. Swayman looks much better than he has recently, a lot calmer with his movements and decisions. However, on the same possession, Nick Foligno takes a desperation hooking penalty and Boston goes to the penalty kill for the first time this afternoon. Swayman is forced to make some key stops, but the kill is successful – for approximately one second. McAvoy is now off for tripping.

Kris Letang takes the puck from his own zone and airs it out over everyone’s head, landing perfectly on the ice for Jake Guentzel on a partial breakaway that is brilliantly tracked by the Bruins’ netminder to make the save. This was a significantly better penalty kill from Boston than the first one, numerous clears and shorthanded pressure brings this game back to even-strength.

In a period largely dominated offensively by Pittsburgh, the Bruins get some zone time from the top two lines. While nothing drastic came from the time, it got a few shots on goal and prevented the Penguins from getting more chances in the defensive zone. Boston still leads this game after two periods, but they need to gain some more momentum into the third.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 15 PIT: 15

Score: 2-1 Bruins – Goals: Heinen (17) Assists: Blueger (16), McGinn (8)

Third Period:

Boston came back from the second intermission looking like the team that started this game in the first place, much better in the offensive zone and on the breakouts while seemingly having faster legs than the second period. Taylor Hall gets a brief chance driving hard into the zone but he waited too long to get a shot off that a Penguins defender was able to re-position to block the shot. Then, shortly after, he gets a one-time chance that is stopped by DeSmith.

15:08 left in the period, Sidney Crosby takes a whack at Trent Frederic’s stick that breaks the stick – resulting in a Crosby slashing penalty. Boston gets another power-play bid at a great time. Probably one of the better power-plays on this struggling stretch, but still no goals to show for it. As Crosby exits the sin bin, he takes the puck hard into the Bruins zone, drawing a Mike Reilly penalty on a one-on-one. Poor timing on that penalty as Boston had some momentum. Regardless, it’s a strong kill and the game is back to 5-on-5.

Jesper Froden, having a strong game today, gets one or two decent shots on DeSmith not long after the penalty kill. He’s looked good with Hall and Haula today and has had some penalty kill minutes of his own. Another solid depth piece for this Bruins organization.

Jeremy Swayman makes two huge stops with around four minutes left in regulation, one off of a tricky deflection and another on a Crosby shot. The other way, Erik Haula with a nice touch pass nearly finds DeBrusk in front of the net but the pass hops over his stick. Matt Grzelcyk gets a close shot in on DeSmith as well, but it hits the goalie’s shoulder. Boston nearly strikes off a poor Penguins line change, can’t, and now it’s an empty-net for Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to go. 1:14 left and HC Mike Sullivan takes his timeout.

Great work protecting the one-goal lead late and the Boston Bruins hold on for a 2-1 win, clinching the playoffs for the sixth-straight season, 75th in franchise history.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 29 PIT: 24

Final Score: 2-1 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS G Jeremy Swayman – 23 saves on 24 shots

2nd Star: PIT G Casey DeSmith – 27 saves on 29 shots

3rd Star: BOS F Erik Haula – 1 goal (GWG), 3 shots, +1, 63% faceoffs

Bruins go back on the road Tuesday for a meeting with the St. Louis Blues.