By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON It wasnt accomplished by taking the easiest road possible, but the Bruins can now be called Northeast Division champions. They fought through some typical Saturdayafternoon doldrums against a Thrashers team playing out the string, andpulled together a solid third period to take home a 3-2 victory overAtlanta at the TD Garden.
That means home ice for the first round of the playoffs, and -- probably -- the chance to look down at the hated rival Montreal Canadiens when it's all said and done."A division title is what a lot of teams obviously battle for, so Im glad that thats out of the way," said Claude Julien. "We've just got to keep playing and playing to win our nextfewgames and see where we end up."
Michael Ryder snapped a 12-game goal-scoring drought by roofing a penalty shot midway through the third period. Ryder was awarded the penalty shot when he stole a puck from Zach Bogosian and then was hauled down from behind when he moved in toward the net.
Mark Recchi opened the scoring after picking up a loose puck in front of the Atlanta net. The Thrashers scored the next two, but Daniel Paille tied things up in the second period with a stroke of short-handed genius with 6:18 to go in the second period.
Paille intercepted a half-hearted pass from Zach Bogosian in the Atlanta end and smoked a top shelf wrist shot off the water bottle for Bostons 11th short-handed goal of the season. Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane potted the goals for Atlanta as Tuukka Rask battled to get control of his shots and rebounds throughout regulation, but was at his best in the final 20 minutes when it came to winning and losing time. Rasks 15 saves over the final 20 minutes helped secure the win and improved to 4-1 against the Thrashers in his short NHL career.
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Thanks in large part to a big performance by Tuukka Rask, the Bruins were able to squeak out a 2-1 win against the Sabres.
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Tuukka Rask made 35 saves to help the Bruins hold off the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday
David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored to give Boston a 2-0 lead and the Bruins improved to 3-0-1 in their past four.
Evander Kane scored his first goal of the season for Buffalo. Robin Lehner returned after missing one game with a hip injury and made 32 saves.
The Sabres combined for nine goals in their previous two wins but the NHL's lowest-scoring team reverted to form from the first 21 games, when star center Jack Eichel was out of the lineup with a high-ankle sprain.
Krejci got the Bruins on the scoreboard with 5:50 left in the first when he deflected Brandon Carlo's slap shot from the point off the right post and into the net.
The Sabres appeared to tie the game late in the second period but replays determined Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.
Bergeron made it 2-0 at 7:10 of the second at 7:44 of the third when he knocked on the rebound of his own missed shot. Bergeron initially hit the puck with his forearm on the left edge of the crease and skated around the net to chase down the puck and slip a backhand past Lehner.
The Sabres answered two minutes later, scoring on Rask for the first time in 109:12 this season. Sam Reinhart's feed off the rear wall set up Kane for a wrist shot from the slot that bounced in off Krejci. Reinhart has five points in his last four games.
NOTES: Bruins F Matt Beleskey was escorted to the dressing room in the final minute of the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. ... Sabres D Josh Gorges did not play after injuring his foot blocking a shot in Thursday's win over the New York Rangers. With Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and Zach Bogosian (MCL sprain) also out, the Sabres were down three of their top four defenseman and recalled 19-year-old Brendan Guhle from the minors to make his NHL debut. Guhle hustled back to thwart a breakaway by Krejci late in the third period. ... F Anton Blidh became the seventh Bruin to make his NHL debut this season after being recalled from the minors on Friday. ... The Bruins scratched F Jimmy Hayes. D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins' captain, missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury. ... Rask got a shutout in Boston's 4-0 win over Buffalo on Nov. 7.
Bruins: Host Florida on Monday.
Sabres: At Washington on Monday.
© 2016 by STATS and The Associated Press.