Bruins lock up division in win over Capitals
By virtue of Boston’s methodical 4-2 win over Washington on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center, the Bruins (51-17-6) clinched the 2013-14 Atlantic Division title. Boston tied a franchise record with its eighth straight road win (1971-72 & 1992-93) and it has picked up a point in 15 games in a row (13-0-2), which matches a record from 1941. The Capitals (34-28-12) are in the middle of an intense race for the Wild Card spots, but you wouldn’t know that by the way they played for most of this one.
Jarome Iginla scored two goals to reach 30 for the 12th time in his career, Carl Soderberg had three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and Chad Johnson made 31 saves to improve to 17-3-1.
After a scoreless first period where the Bruins outshot the Capitals 15-9, Boston scored three goals in less than a six minute span in the second period. Iginla finished off a breakaway then Soderberg tipped in a power-play goal for a 2-0 lead. Forty-one seconds later, Iginla scored on a backhander as Washington completely unraveled. The Capitals would score with 10 seconds left as Jason Chimera put in a rebound but it didn’t really matter.
Bergeron added a second power-play goal for the Bruins that gave them the commanding 4-1 lead in the third period. That gave him a six-game goal-scoring streak with seven goals and two assists in that time frame. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the definition of a garbage time goal for Washington with 55 seconds left to make this final score much closer than it deserved to be.
This victory clinched the season series, 2-1, with Washington (Boston won the last two) but these teams could certainly see each other again in the first round of the playoffs in a few weeks. Boston will go for another road win on Sunday afternoon (12:30, NBC) as they face the Flyers (39-27-7). The Bruins are now up eight points on the Penguins with eight games left so the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is almost a lock.
What they’ll be saying: Iginla is only the second Bruin (Milan Lucic in 2010-11) to score 30 goals since Phil Kessel was traded away to Toronto five years ago. Iginla also became the first Bruins free agent to score 30 goals; he’s earned $3.7 million of a possible $4.2 million this season in performance bonuses. He can get another $250K if the Bruins win three rounds in the playoffs and an additional $250K if they win the Stanley Cup. Oh by the way it was his 202nd career multi-goal game in the NHL.
Figuring out what the Capitals want to do isn’t too tough since they own the top ranked power play in the league. Boston got called for three penalties but their penalty kill got the job done as they didn’t allow any power play goals to Alex Ovechkin and Co. The two goals scored on Boston’s power play felt like a bonus.
It has flown under the radar since Iginla and Bergeron have been so hot lately along with the Bruins as a team but Soderberg is playing fantastic hockey. In the month of March, he has six goals and eight assists. He is basically guaranteed to win NESN’s Seventh Player award for the Bruin that exceeds expectations, Johnson seems like the only other legitimate candidate for that.
Matt Bartkowski, Corey Potter and Jordan Caron were the healthy scratches for Boston. Andrej Meszaros played his first game in a week after sitting out vs. Montreal and Chicago. Kevan Miller briefly left the Bruins’ bench after getting hit on the arm but he returned. Tuukka Rask should be in goal vs. Philadelphia, a team that Boston owns.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate