Senators, Panthers gain on Bruins in tense Wild Card race

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The Boston Bruins can’t afford to have many more nights like this. They certainly held their own against the Ottawa Senators and had more success opposing goaltender Andrew Hammond than any of his previous adversaries, but the Bruins still suffered a 6-4 loss tonight. While that was happening Boston’s only other serious rival in the battle for the second Wild Card seed, the Florida Panthers, earned a 3-1 victory against Detroit.

The Bruins still hold their Wild Card spot, but the Senators are now just two points behind despite having played in one less game. Florida is five points shy of the Bruins.

An obvious case can be made that Ottawa is the bigger threat to the Bruins at this point. Not only are the Senators closer in the standings, but they’ve been unreal lately with a 13-1-1 record beginning with Hammond’s first start of the 2014-15 campaign. The Senators have a great opportunity to continue that hot streak on Saturday against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs, which they will play an additional two times after that contest.

By contrast, Florida has been largely treading water lately, but the Panthers got starting goaltender Roberto Luongo back tonight from a shoulder injury. He turned aside 25 of 26 shots in his return. Luongo’s return should help the Panthers cause, but more importantly, Florida has a golden opportunity to do direct damage to Boston as its scheduled to play against the Bruins three times in its final 11 games. The first of those meetings will occur on Saturday.

Meanwhile the Bruins have now lost three straight games in what has proven to be a roller-coaster season. They’ve come back from some serious cold streaks already in 2014-15, but they likely can’t afford to endure another with the Wild Card race this tight.