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.