Published November 20, 2014
With three games remaining until the playoffs, the Boston Bruins have nothing left to do but get ready to defend their Stanley Cup championship.
On the other hand, the Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty to play for.
The Pens look to keep their grip on the Eastern Conference's fourth seed this evening with a victory over the Northeast Division-champion Bruins.
Boston secured its second division title in a row and the second seed in the East with its victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday night. The win gave the Bruins six more points than the Senators with three games to play and Boston owns the tiebreaker with four more non-shootout wins.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost four of its past six games and Sunday afternoon's 6-4 setback to visiting Philadelphia trimmed the Pens' lead over the Flyers for the fourth seed in the East to just a single point. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season and the Flyers host the Rangers this evening.
With Philadelphia and Pittsburgh likely to meet in the first round of the playoffs, the Penguins might not want the fourth seed and home-ice advantage. The Penguins have lost all five of their games versus the Flyers at the CONSOL Energy Center since it opened in October of 2010, giving up five straight goals to Philadelphia on Sunday after getting first-period tallies from Steve Sullivan and James Neal.
Sullivan ended with two goals, Chris Kunitz tallied and Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Evgeni Malkin all ended with two assists. Malkin leads the NHL with 104 points, while Dupuis has logged nine goals and 10 assists over a 14-game point streak, the longest such run in the NHL this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury yielded five goals on 25 shots and was prevented from matching Tom Barrasso's franchise record of 226 career victories.
"I think we did some really good things," Crosby said. "The big thing for us is that we made some big mistakes. We had some good chances, but we can't afford to make mistakes and expect to win."
Crosby, who has missed most of this season due to concussion-like symptoms and a neck injury, also took exception to a cross check from behind by Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn, and a hit by Pittsburgh's Joe Vitale on Danny Briere sparked a melee with 63 seconds left to play that saw all 10 players on the ice engage. Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato also got into a heated exchanged with Flyers' head coach Peter Laviolette, and both were tossed from the game.
"Sidney took exception to a hit," Bylsma said of the scrum. "There were 10 guys joined together near center ice and, from what I can gather, their coach didn't like a hit, took a stick and broke it over the glass, and that stick ended up in our bench."
The Pens and Flyers will meet again in Pittsburgh on Saturday to end the regular season. First, the Penguins will take on a Bruins team that is coming off a 2-1 victory over the Rangers, their seventh in the past nine games.
Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron scored the goals and Tim Thomas made 33 saves to lock up the division. Zdeno Chara, named the NHL's Second Star of the week on Monday, logged an assist to give him eight points over a five-game point streak.
"Theoretically, we have plenty of time to get that extra two points, but why wait," Thomas said about securing the division title. "We had a chance to seal it up and take all the hope out of Ottawa's sails. It's nice to do."
Boston will now use its final three games this season to get ready for the postseason and could be without center Gregory Campbell due to a bruised foot that held him out of Sunday's win.
The Penguins have won four of five and seven of their last 10 versus the Bruins, including four straight in Boston. That is one shy of the club-best five-game win streak the club had in Beantown from March 27, 1993-March 4, 1995.
Malkin was named the NHL's Second Star for the month of March after leading all skaters with 23 points in 15 games. He posted his fourth five-point game of the season with a two-goal, three-assist effort versus the Jets on March 20 and has four points in three games versus the Bruins this season.