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Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for wild card spot (or worse?)

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In the last 48 hours, the Boston Bruins have dropped significant games to two teams their jostling for playoff positioning with in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. In both instances, they were regulation defeats.

Tyler Bozak sealed Boston’s fate on Monday, while Kyle Turris scored the clincher in a 3-2 win tonight.

With that, the Senators have a six-point lead over the Bruins for second in the Atlantic with a game in hand. At this point, the Senators are more fixated on catching the Canadiens for first in the division … while there’s a serious risk for Boston to slip into a wild card spot (or even worse).

Check out Toronto breathing down Boston’s neck for the third spot in the Atlantic:

Bruins: 82 points in 73 games played
Maple Leafs: 81 points in 71 GP

Yeah, this three-game losing streak stings for the Bruins, particularly these last two. Then again, it’s been the story of the season in some ways, as Boston’s lost key points against these two rivals:

Yikes.

Video: Torey Krug goes coast-to-coast for impressive Bruins goal

If there’s one obvious choice for a Boston Bruins defenseman who would benefit from the team’s increased emphasis on attacking, it would be Torey Krug.

Usually that means advancing the puck in transition and being a little more aggressive in offensive support … but every now and then, Krug turns on the jets and creates chances more or less by himself.

Tuesday presented one of his most impressive moments, as he made it look way too easy going coast-to-coast to score a goal against the Ottawa Senators. You wonder if Erik Karlsson felt a tinge of jealousy in that moment.

Bozak comes up big again as Maple Leafs grab huge win against Bruins

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Technically, a very late Dominic Moore goal keeps Tyler Bozak‘s 2-1 tally from being the game-winner for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the Boston Bruins. It essentially was on Monday, though.

The Maple Leafs piled on some empty-netters, so the score ended up being 4-2, a misleading margin of victory as Bozak’s go-ahead goal broke a 1-1 tie with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Earlier in March, Bozak scored a huge goal in Toronto’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, so a once-maligned forward is coming up clutch for the Buds.

(Judging by the responses to this post on Twitter, Bruins fans believed that the Maple Leafs received the benefit of a few whistles.)

With this regulation win, the Maple Leafs swept their season series against the Bruins.

They’re now in striking distance of passing the Bruins for third in the Atlantic:

Bruins – 82 points in 72 games
Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

The modest immediate concern is grabbing a playoff spot, and in that regard, this win creates some nice breathing room for Toronto:

Final wild card spot: Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP

Islanders – 78 points in 71 GP
Lightning – 77 points in 71 GP

Every other non-playoff East team: 74 points or fewer.

The Maple Leafs can’t just sit back and relax during their final 11 games of the regular season, mind you, but they might just remember nights like these if their push ends up being successful.

That will be especially true if they can finish ahead of the Bruins.