Bruins

Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues

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USA TODAY Sports Photos

Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues

ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz and the St. Louis Blues waited most of the season for some late-game magic.

They finally found it.

Schwartz scored his second goal of the game 30 seconds into overtime to give St. Louis a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.

It was the Blues' third successive come-from-behind win in overtime. They beat Chicago 5-4 on Sunday after a 4-3 extra period win over the New York Rangers a day earlier.

Going into Saturday's game, St. Louis had a 2-23-1 record when trailing after the second period.

"We knew we had it in us," coach Mike Yeo said. "Obviously, we're finding it at the right time."

The Blues won for the fifth time in six games to move within two points of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.

Jake Allen made 21 saves to improve to 24-21-2.

Ryan Donato scored for Boston. The Bruins clinched a playoff spot and moved within four points of Tampa Bay for the Eastern lead.

Schwartz scored his third game-winning goal of the season with a nifty coast-to-coast march in the extra period. He took a drop pass from Colton Parayko and skated behind his own net to gain momentum.

Schwartz weaved through a pair of defenders and drilled a hard shot from the slot past goalie Anton Khudobin, who made 18 saves.

"I had some space and I just tried to pick up some speed," Schwartz said. "I wanted to see what was going to develop. I got a little one-on-one and just tried to change the angle."

Schwartz, who got his 15th career game-winner, missed 20 games earlier in the season with a broken ankle.

"He's a heck of a player, he's fun to watch," St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "He's been so good for us this year in all aspects of the game."

Schwartz is having the time of his life during the Blues' recent come-from-behind win streak.

"We're back to believing in ourselves," Schwartz said. "We're doing a good job of playing the full 60 minutes and not giving up. We're not panicking."

Schwartz tied it midway through the third period with a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

Donato scored his second goal in his second NHL game. He had a goal and two assists in a 5-4 loss to Columbus on Monday night.

Donato, still a student at Harvard University, returned to Massachusetts on Tuesday to attend class before flying back to St. Louis to rejoin the Bruins. His father, Ted, played 528 games in two stints with the Bruins (1992-99, 2003-04).

Donato, who played for the U.S. Olympic team last month, drilled a shot past Allen in the first period. Pietrangelo's clearing attempt hit referee Brad Watson and the puck bounced right to Donato.

"That's the goal, getting that playoff point is huge for us and being able to clinch that spot," Donato said. "But obviously we would have been a lot happier if we got the win as well."

Boston, which has a game in hand on Tampa Bay, joined Nashville and Tampa Bay as only teams to have clinched playoff spots.

"Going into the season, we wanted to make the playoffs, be a Stanley Cup contender," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Going forward, we want to be in the best position possible, playing the best hockey going in."

SHORT-HANDED

Boston was without seven key players:- C Patrice Bergeron (fractured left foot), D Charlie McAvoy (left knee), D Zdeno Chara (upper body), LW Jake DeBrusk (upper body), RW David Backes (right leg laceration), D Torey Krug (upper body) and LW Rick Nash (upper body). They have combined for 101 goals and 161 assists.

NOTES: St. Louis RW Vladimir Tarasenko missed his second successive game after taking an elbow to the face against the New York Rangers on Saturday. ... The Bruins have least one point in 12 of their last 15 games against St. Louis. ... Only three Boston players - RW David Pastrnak, C Tim Schaller and C Sean Kuraly - have played in every game this season.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At Dallas on Friday night in the second game of a four-game trip.

Blues: Host Vancouver on Friday night.

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

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AP Photo

Haggerty: Bruins are who we thought they were

BOSTON -- When push came to shove in Game 7, the Bruins were exactly the hockey club we thought they were.

Clearly they were the better team in the divisional playoff matchup with the Maple Leafs. That became apparent Wednesday night as they erased a 4-3 deficit with four third-period goals in a 7-4 win in Game 7. When it mattered most, all three members of Boston's Perfection Line scored goals; Jake DeBrusk netted a pair while outshining all the highly heralded young players on the Toronto roster, and the Bruins survived some truly concerning moments with their defense and goaltending over the first 40 minutes.

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For the fans at TD Garden it was remarkably entertaining playoff hockey. For the Leafs, it was a sobering, painful dose of reality (and their second third-period Game 7 collapse in Boston in the last five years). And for the Bruins, it was confirmation of all that we saw over the course of 82 regular-season games. After all, they were the NHL's best third-period team all year.

In a very vocal dressing room between the second and third periods, with the Bruins trailing 4-3 and sitting a mere 20 minutes from elimination, their three most experienced veterans -- Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who combined had more Game 7 appearances on their resumes than the entire Toronto roster -- drove that point home to their younger teammates.

"It didn't matter how long it was going to take. We were going to do the job," said Torey Krug, who scored the game-tying goal just 70 seconds into the third period. "It's kind of how we were all season long. Coming back, you know, in games and losing guys to injury, it was just kind of like the definition of our season.

"So it didn't matter. We were going to break them, and we were going to out-will them, and we did."

They did so against a goalie, Freddie Andersen, who had confounded them earlier in the series. They did so under the intense pressure of a Game 7 situation. And they so despite things not breaking well for them earlier in the game, as Patrick Marleau and Kasperi Kapanen scored soft goals against Tuukka Rask.

But the Bruins made it through waves of injuries and a hellacious final six weeks of the NHL regular season. In that spirit, they just kept grinding Wednesday night. And it's clear to see why they're regarded as a hockey team that won't be easily taken out in any series.

"That was one of the most incredible games I've ever been a part of," said Brad Marchand, who closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the third period. "It was so back and forth. The intensity from the crowd and the emotion was a lot of fun to be part of. But, even after they got the lead a couple times, we just . . . we knew that we have the resiliency in the room to continue to come back. We've done it all year, so we just try to draw on that. It doesn't always go your way, but luckily tonight it did.

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"We've done it all year. [We were trailing by] only one goal. We didn't have to cheat to win. We just wanted to continue to play our game. We were getting opportunities and we just figured it was a matter of time and luckily, again, it went our way."

Well, strong third periods and hard-to-believe comebacks were definitely something the Bruins have done all year. Krug, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak and Marchand helped author another one with four consecutive goals in the third period, stunning the Maple Leafs.

Toronto, with skilled young players like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and others, was no easy opponent, as evidenced by its 3-1 record against Boston in the regular season. Getting past the Leafs was no easy task.

Up next are the high-wattage Tampa Bay Lightning, with the next series starting Saturday afternoon at Amalie Arena. The Bruins might not be the better team in this matchup, but they're playing with house money now after making a tremendous step forward in both an entertaining regular season and certifiably insane first round.

The one thing we know for sure: All is possible with a Bruins team that can come back from just about anything.

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Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

GOLD STAR: The Bruins needed somebody to step up aside from their top trio of forwards, and Jake DeBrusk did exactly that in a huge Game 7 moment for the Black and Gold. DeBrusk scored two goals in the do-or-die playoff game including a power play goal to open up the scoring, and the game-winning goal in the third period where he powered to the net through Jake Gardiner before sliding a shot through Frederik Andersen. DeBrusk finished with five goals and seven points in the seven game series, had five shots on net in Wednesday night’s decisive Game 7 and was the best player on the ice for either team in the series’ most important game. DeBrusk may still be a rookie in name, but he’s graduated to formidable big game player in these playoffs. 

BLACK EYE: Jake Gardiner finished with a minus-5 for the game, and was brutally bad for the Maple Leafs. This was always the glaring weakness for the Leafs on their back end and it finally showed in Game 7 with so many other moving parts flying around. Gardiner didn’t block any shots and had a couple of giveaways in his 24:01 of ice time, and his play on the game-winning goal for DeBrusk was the perfect example of his rough night. DeBrusk got Gardiner all turned around as he attacked on the right wing with speed, and powered his way to the net while releasing a shot as the Leafs D-man couldn’t eliminate him from the play. At the moment of truth, it was a young Bruins forward overpowering a veteran Leafs D-man for the game-winner, and it’s exactly how the series played out in the moments where the Bruins had the upper hand. 

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TURNING POINT: Clearly it was coming out for the third period where the Bruins have been big winners all season. The Bruins scored just 1:10 into the third period to tie up the game on a Torey Krug bomb from the point, and they didn’t allow a single shot on net in the first 10 minutes of the third period while protecting a goalie with a fragile level of confidence in his own game. Clearly the Bruins decided to put the clamps down at the right time, and eventually Jake DeBrusk busted through for the game-winner while powering through the Leafs defense for his second score of the game. In all the Bruins outshot the Leafs 11-8 in the third period, but truly controlled the final 20 minutes of play while scoring four unanswered goals against a stunned Leafs team. For the second straight Game 7 between these two teams, the third period was a house of horrors for Toronto. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron is the kind of player that lives for the Game 7 moments, and he did exactly that once again for the Bruins. It was Bergeron that finished with a goal and three points, a plus-2 in 19:36 of ice time and won 14-of-22 face-offs while playing strong through injury. Bergeron scored his first goal of the series in the big Game 7 moment, and he finished with four shot attempts, one hit, two takeaways and a blocked shot in his night’s work while filling up the box score like he always does. Even better all three members of the Bruins top line scored in the game after being held down in each of the three losses in the series, showing they were ready to show up and play big at the biggest moment in a Game 7. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – the number of points for Torey Krug at the end of the seven game series after scoring a big game-tying third period goal in Game 7. The nine points leads the field of all NHL defensemen after the first round of the playoffs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Toronto did a good job with them. They got frustrated a few times, but they stuck with the program. Even the games they’ve been quiet in terms of stats on the sheet, they’ve been generating. So, that was asked this morning: Are they getting frustrated? I think there’s always a certain level of that when you’re used to getting production, and they got it back tonight.” –Bruce Cassidy, on his top line’s ability to stick with the program, and come through in Game 7, even as they were getting frustrated later in the series.

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