It wasn’t their most thrilling game of the season but the Bruins will take the final result: Boston (44-17-5) beat Phoenix (31-25-11), 2-1, Thursday at TD Garden for their seventh straight win. That’s the longest win streak for the B’s dating back to Dec. 10-28, 2011.
Tuukka Rask (21 saves) got the surprise start after winning in Montreal Wednesday and he posted his 30th win of the season. In Claude Julien’s 300th win as Bruins head coach, his team jumped one point ahead of the Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference.
“This was good commitment from our guys,” said Julien. “They got tired in the third period (when Phoenix outshot them 12-5) since they had five power plays in the game so the same guys went out there over and over. I’m pleased with our effort, not so much the streak but the consistency.”
A key to the victory for the Bruins was that they not only scored the first goal but built a 2-0 lead in the first period. Zdeno Chara beat Mike Smith (18 saves) with a high wrist shot less than six minutes into the contest. The goal was unassisted but Chris Kelly screened Smith perfectly. Boston made it 2-0 late in the frame when Jarome Iginla tipped Johnny Boychuk’s shot from the point.
After a lackluster second period, things picked up in the third when Lauri Korpikoski tipped Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s shot from the point less than halfway through the period. The Coyotes used their timeout at the end and Smith was pulled but they couldn’t find the equalizer. Brad Marchand hit the post twice but he didn’t seem too upset about it since his team still got the two points.
“We’re playing really well right now, buying into our system and not trying to do too much individually,” Marchand said.
When asked about Rask’s performance, Marchand had the line of the night: “That’s why he makes $8 million.”
Boston’s three-game homestand continues on Saturday (1 p.m., NESN) vs. Carolina (29-28-9).
What they'll be saying: Julien said there was no special reason why Rask was in the net and not Chad Johnson as expected. If anything, this basically guarantees that Johnson will play against the Hurricanes. With Thursday's result, Rask has won his last five starts. One month from today is the final regular season game, so they have to get him enough rest before that.
Torey Krug and Corey Potter were the healthy scratches for Boston with Daniel Paille missing his second game in a row with a concussion. This was the first game of the season that Krug has missed. Dougie Hamilton was back in the lineup after missing the last two and Andrej Meszaros has played in the past three games. Juggling eight defensemen isn’t easy but Julien is making it work thus far.
Iginla’s 21st goal on the season tied him with Marchand for the team lead. Chara’s 16 goals are tied for the third most in his career. His top season was 19 in 2008-09 and that seems within reach with 16 games left, especially when he has scored a goal in each of the last two nights.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate