Bruins

Flyers beat Penguins 3-1, knock Bruins out of playoffs

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Flyers beat Penguins 3-1, knock Bruins out of playoffs

PHILADELPHIA -- With their ailing owner watching from home, the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff berth.

Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, Steve Mason stopped 18 shots and the Flyers beat the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday to earn the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a great feeling," rookie coach Dave Hakstol said. "It's a win and playoff berth for Mr. (Ed) Snider and the unbelievable fans."

Snider, the 83-year-old franchise founder and Hall of Fame executive, watched Lauren Hart sing "God Bless America" on FaceTime as the team's longtime anthem singer held out her phone during her performance. She blew kisses after the song.

"You get a little emotional when you start to think about it," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "We know he's happy we made the playoffs."

The Flyers' win eliminated Boston, which lost to Ottawa 6-1 earlier in the day. The Bruins lost a tiebreaker to Detroit. Philadelphia will meet top-seeded Washington in the first round. The Penguins, who are the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, will play the Rangers or Islanders.

"It's just the beginning for us," Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek said. "We can't be satisfied. We have a good enough team to beat Washington and we have to focus on that."

Pittsburgh rested Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang and played without Evgeni Malkin for the 15th consecutive game because of an upper-body injury.

Penguins goaltender Matt Murray was injured in a collision with Brayden Schenn and left the game in the first period. Murray has started five straight games because Marc-Andre Fleury is out with a concussion. Coach Mike Sullivan said Murray will be evaluated on Monday.

"We regret that he got hurt," Sullivan said. "When you play hockey, you always run that risk. We felt like we made the best decisions for our hockey team that were going to put us in a position to move forward."

Murray's mask flew off when Schenn banged into him, but he made the save on the backhander. Jeff Zatkoff replaced Murray for his first appearance since Feb. 20 and allowed a goal on the first shot he faced.

The Flyers took a 2-1 lead late in the second period when Shayne Gostisbehere ripped a slap shot that bounced off Simmonds' right arm and fluttered past Zatkoff for his 32nd goal.

Philadelphia couldn't take advantage during a five-minute power play in the third period, but Pierre-Edouard Bellemare later sealed it with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

Making his 12th straight start, Mason gave the Flyers a boost with a sprawling, side-to-side glove save to rob Kael Mouillierat late in the first period.

Seconds later, Simmonds scored to tie it at 1-1. Voracek skated down the left side and sent a centering pass to a Simmonds streaking down the middle. Simmonds fought off a defender and slid it past Zatkoff.

Pittsburgh's Eric Fehr then hit the post in the final minute.

Nick Bonino gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the first on his ninth goal. He beat Mason with a wrister off a crossing pass from Carl Hagelin.

"Of course you want to win every game against the Flyers, there's nothing better than beating them," Pittsburgh's Oscar Sundqvist said. "But it just didn't happen."

Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

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Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about the Boston Bruins.

They’ve overcome bouts of adversity all season long with injuries and a crazy trip to China in the preseason amongst them, and they ripped off a 19-game point streak that registers as the second-longest in franchise history.

With David Pastrnak getting ready to return to the B’s lineup, they will once again have the NHL’s best forward line and all three members should once again pass 30 goals when it’s all said and done with Patrice Bergeron just three goals away from the magic number. They could finish with the second-most points in the NHL this season as the B’s sit tied with the Calgary Flames at 95 points with 10 games left to go for both organizations.

The Bruins even have plenty of comeback wins down the stretch and their own pregame pump-up speech from MMA brawler Conor McGregor along the way, so there’s plenty of Black and Gold mojo going as well. So there’s good reason for those backing the Bruins to get pumped up with bodies also returning to good health, and Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug and Marcus Johansson expected to also join Pastrnak back in the lineup sooner rather than later.

So it’s a pretty good time to be the Bruins comfortably sitting second in the standings in the Atlantic Division, and holding a four-point lead over the struggling Maple Leafs for home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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“It’s nice to look at yourself and where you are in the standings and take a deep breath and not be that team like – you know… I’d much rather be us right now than those teams that are seven, eight, nine [in the playoff standings],” said Bruce Cassidy. “[The teams] that are one point in [the playoffs] one night and one point out the next night. That’s nerve-racking, so for us, like I said, we’re paid to win, and we’re doing a lot of that lately. So that’s comforting.”

So why aren’t more people getting truly excited about the Bruins' chances next month once the playoffs get going?

Well, it’s probably got something to do with what awaits them in the second round of the playoffs should they advance past Toronto.

The Bruins could finish second in the entire NHL in points when the regular season is over, and that wouldn’t prevent them from playing the league’s best team in the second round of the playoffs. That’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looming in the second round of the postseason again this year for whichever team comes out successful in the expected Bruins/Maple Leafs series.

Thanks, NHL playoff format, which annually seems to screw whichever division boasts the strongest and best teams as the Atlantic Division does this season.

No matter how strongly the Bruins finish and how many teams they beat in the final 10 games leading up to the postseason, does anybody truly think it’s going to be any different from last season? Is there even a shot that the B's are going to last more than the five games they managed last season when they were outclassed by the Lightning, and overwhelmed by their overall depth, after the first game of the series?   

The short answer is no.

The Lightning are deeper, more offensively explosive than the Bruins, stronger on the back end with big bodies everywhere and more of their core players are on the young end of their prime years. On paper it really doesn’t look like the Bruins will come out on top.

Certainly there’s a chance, though. Tuukka Rask could get hot and carry the Bruins through a playoff series like he never has before, or the Lightning could end up suffering some injuries that take away from their overall attack.

But the bottom line is that the Bruins are going to need some help to even get out of the second round, and that’s probably going to make it difficult for a fan base to get too excited when they’re already drunk on Red Sox and Patriots championships within the last year.

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The Bruins will get their chance to stir up the enthusiasm with two more games against the Lightning before the end of the regular season, including one just a week from now in Tampa with both teams rested and ready to make a statement. Maybe the B’s will swing into an Amalie Arena where they’ve almost always played well and push around a Lightning group that barely broke a sweat ending their season last spring.  

But it’s going to take a hell of a regular-season beating to make everybody believe that the Bruins truly have any kind of a shot in a second-round showdown with Tampa Bay. It would be foolish to completely overlook the Leafs in the first round as well, but it’s just as tough to blame anybody that isn’t contracting Black and Gold fever right now.

It’s going to take quite a bit for the Bruins to even get to the Eastern Conference Final this season, and for most B’s fans, they will believe it when they see it.  

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David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Pastrnak had a mile-wide smile on his face at the thought of getting back on the ice with his teammates and playing games after missing the last five weeks with a left thumb injury. The 22-year-old is excited to knock the rust off and get back to the midseason form that had him post 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games, and saw him on a pace for 50 goals and 100 points prior to falling on his left hand back in early February.

“It’s a lot of fun being back on the ice with the guys. It’s been a few weeks [out of the lineup] so you kind of recognize that these guys are your friends and family, so it’s obviously feeling really good to be back,” said Pastrnak, who joked that he might not have been hurt a few years ago had he fallen on his left hand when he was 160 pounds instead of the 190 pounds he’s weighing in at these days. “Obviously these things happen in life and you just try to take advantage of it as a person and a player.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to be healthy all year, so it was really tough the first few weeks [after the thumb injury]. It feels good now. I’m taking shots and one-timers with no pain, so I’m happy to be moving forward.”

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But the young Bruins star also voiced tones of accountability and perhaps even remorse as he recounted the late Sunday night fall that led to the off-ice injury and the 16 games and counting that he’s missed as a result of it. The hope is that Pastrnak might even be able to play on Tuesday night against the Islanders while wearing a protective splint on his left hand, and he will be manning the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when that does happen.

“Obviously I let the guys down a bit. It’s a tough time. It’s not an injury that happened on the ice, so I took full responsibility for that. That’s what hurt me most. Could I have avoided it? I wish [that I had]. But obviously things happen. The fact that I could let somebody down, I definitely hate that. The first couple of weeks were tough.”

Now Pastrnak has roughly three weeks to get ready for the postseason and get back into top scoring form, and that’s the most important thing for both the player and the team now that he’s over the injury hump and ready to return. 

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