Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) scores a goal past Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, April 3, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)
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Patrick Kane gets hat trick, hits 100 points, makes Bruins miserable

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You know how the Boston Bruins were off to a rough start while the Chicago Blackhawks dominated the first period?

Yeah, it got worse for Boston.

The Blackhawks are off to a 6-0 lead deep into the second period of what’s more or less a must-win game for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask was given the early hook, yet things really didn’t get much better afterward.

Patrick Kane is really taking the spotlight, however.

With a hat trick and an assist, Kane’s enjoying a special afternoon, hitting the 100-point mark for the first time in his career. (And likely becoming the only player to do so this season, barring a blazing run by Jamie Benn or someone else close-ish to the mix.)

In the near-certain instance that Kane’s points lead remains, he’ll be the first American player to win the Art Ross Trophy. Honestly, it might not even be close.

WATCH LIVE: Huge game for Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks on NBC

Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask drops to the ice to make a save as Chicago Blackhawks right wing Kris Versteeg, left, hovers for a rebound during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Boston. Rask shut out the Blackhawks in the Bruins' 3-0 win. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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The Boston Bruins probably haven’t played a more important game against the Chicago Blackhawks since the two teams jostled for a Stanley Cup.

Really, this is one of their most important games since then, period.

As of Sunday, the Bruins are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, but one win can change that outlook … at least for a little while. Read more about the various scenarios here.

It’s Scott Darling vs. Tuukka Rask in the nets, and plenty of talent on both sides. Enjoy the action on NBC and stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

What’s on the line today: A lot for the Bruins, West spoils for Stars

Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien instructs his players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks in Boston, Thursday, March 3, 2016. The Bruins defeated the Blackhawks 4-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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There are some interesting hockey scenarios to monitor if you can resist the siren call of Wrestlemania and/or opening day for baseball.

One that won’t be listed in “clinching scenarios”

Today’s Boston Bruins – Chicago Blackhawks game is on NBC, and it’s a big one for the Bruins.

As of this moment, the B’s are outside of the East playoff picture, but only by a small margin. Winning today would get them back in the mix, and would also make it easier to catch the Flyers if the Red Wings pull away.

It’s probably easiest to follow it visually, right?

via NHL.com
via NHL.com

So, yeah, this is a huge one for the Bruins.

OK, now let’s check the clinching scenarios

Via the NHL:

  • The Stars could clinch the Central Division title and the top spot in the West with any sort of win against the Anaheim Ducks and if the Blues lose to the Avalanche in regulation.
  • The Panthers will clinch a playoff spot if the Bruins lose in any way.
  • The Wild would clinch their spot if they beat the Jets in any way and if the Avalanche lose to the Blues in regulation.

In other words … a fair bit of scoreboard-watching for fans on Sunday.

Red Wings take Bruins’ playoff spot (for now)

Detroit Red Wings' Brad Richards (17) celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, April 2, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Philadelphia Flyers may see their astounding hot streak end and make the situation more complicated, but right now, it’s looking a lot like a playoff spot might come down to one of the Detroit Red Wings or Boston Bruins.

Saturday already presented Red Wings fans with the unpleasant thought of Pavel Datsyuk leaving for Russia as early as the end of this season, so imagine the discomfort that would come from losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That didn’t happen, even if the Buds made it uncomfortably close in an eventual 3-2 Red Wings win.

Let’s take a wider look at the race for the East’s lower playoff spots:

via NHL.com
via NHL.com

As you can see, Detroit takes the Atlantic’s third spot from Boston thanks to this decision, yet the Bruins hold a game in hand to possibly flip-flop the two.

Meanwhile, the current wild card teams are comparably comfortable when you consider games in hand in particular.

The most important factor to remember might just be how much control the Red Wings have over this situation. The Red Wings face the Flyers in Detroit on Wednesday and the Bruins in Boston on Thursday before their season-ending game against the Rangers.

To state the obvious, those matches could make a huge difference in these races, especially if they end in regulation.

It wasn’t pretty tonight, and it really hasn’t been very pretty all that often for the Red Wings lately. Despite this bumpy ride, Detroit could still reach the finish line if they stay on track.

/runs out of racing metaphors

Bruins hold off furious Blues comeback attempt to maintain playoff spot

Boston BruinsÂ’ David Krejci, of the Czech Republic, celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues, Friday, April 1, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
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OK, so it got a little close at the end there.

But the Boston Bruins are back into a playoff spot — for now, anyway — after a 6-5 victory over the St. Louis Blues, punctuated by a crazy third period in which the Blues nearly completed the comeback.

That’s certainly the last thing Boston would want to give up in that situation given it is clinging to a post-season position.

The Bruins, trying to regain their footing after a five-game losing streak late last month, looked to be in great shape to easily take two points after opening up a three-goal lead after two periods, before the Blues started to quickly chip away.

Robert Bortuzzo and Alex Pietrangelo scored less than four minutes apart to close that gap to just one goal even before the midway part of the third period.

But Patrice Bergeron, so reliable as that two-way center for Boston, restored the lead with his 30th goal of the season and less than four minutes remaining.

That goal turned out to be the winner, as the Blues pulled back to within a goal with 20 seconds remaining in regulation — just to add to the drama of the Bruins’ situation.

The win moves Boston back into third in the Atlantic Division by a single point, after temporarily giving up that post to the Detroit Red Wings after they were victorious versus Minnesota earlier in the evening.