A little separation. A little breathing room. That's what the Boston Bruins bought themselves last night with a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators in Boston, a much-needed home win and the team's second in a row following a four game losing skid.
First period goals by Patrice Bergeron, his 18th of the season, and David Krejci, his 22nd, set the tone, and the Bruins played much better defense with that two goal lead than they had during that four game slide, blocking numerous shots and holding the two goal lead well into the third period. The Predators made the home fans squirm a bit when Craig Smith tipped one past Tuukka Rask about half way through the third, but then rookie Noel Acciari finished off a two on one break, roofing a nice backhand dish from Riley Nash past Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne for his first career NHL goal in 43 games. Nice time to get it. David Backes added an empty netter and with Tampa Bay idle the Bruins now have a three point lead over the Lightning for the final available wild card playoff berth, with six games left to play in the regular season. They're still one point behind Toronto for third place in the Atlantic, the Maple Leafs scoring a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers last night, led by rookie sensation Auston Matthews, who scored his 35th goal of the season, and that's a franchise record for Toronto rookies.
Tuukka Rask stopped 24 shots for the win in net, after missing the previous game with an injury and the Bruins will need him to be on his "A" game the rest of the way if they're to make the playoffs. All but one of the Bruins remaining games are at home, with the Dallas Stars up next on Thursday night.
In Montreal the Canadiens are tuning up for the playoffs and are looking more and more like they'll win the Atlantic division after a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars at the Bell Centre last night. Brendan Gallagher broke a 1-1 tie in the third period and the Habs scored twice more after that to put the game away. In the process veteran defenseman Andrei Markov had an assist, an otherwise unremarkable feat, except that the helper put him in the Montreal record books with some pretty impressive company. Markov is now tied with Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe for most career points by a Montreal defenseman, the two sharing second place on that list with 572, and Markov will likely have second place all to himself by the time the season ends. Doubtful he'll ever catch the all time defense points leader for the Habs, though. That would be the legendary Larry Robinson, who tallied 833 points over his NHL career with Montreal.
The San Jose Sharks were in need of a win, losers of six in a row before snapping the skid with a 5-4 overtime win against the NY Rangers at the Shark Tank in California last night. Brent Burns got the game winner on a power play in the extra frame after teammate Chris Tierney had tied the game at four with just a little over two minutes to go in regulation, his second goal of the game. J.T. Miller scored twice for the Rangers in the loss. Both teams are playoff bound, and the Rangers are just glad to have number one goalie Henrik Lundqvist back from injury.
I haven't talked much about baseball, but the 2017 season is just around the corner, starting officially April 2nd. The spring training game results are meaningless but the health of individual players is not, and the Boston Red Sox got some bad news on that front yesterday, announcing that reliever Tyler Thornburg will start the season on the disabled list with an impingement in his shoulder. Thornburg was projected to be the Sox' eighth inning specialist to get to closer Craig Kimbrel, an important role especially with Koji Uehara scooped up by the Chicago Cubs as a free agent this off season. Thornburg was acquired from Milwaukee in December after a very impressive season as a set up guy and then closer for the Brewers, but he won't be available in the Boston bullpen for the foreseeable future. Lots of speculation about whether the Red Sox shoulder strengthening program was the cause of the injury, but whatever the reason, the Sox will need to experiment with other late inning options to get to their closer, perhaps Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross, Jr., or Joe Kelly, all of whom can bring the heat, but also have shown a penchant for doing so well out of the strike zone. The Sox open their season April 3rd at Fenway against the Pittsburgh Pirates.