A hot stretch has the Boston Bruins sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference as the postseason approaches.
Whether or not the Washington Capitals will join them in the playoffs remains to be seen.
Boston looks to keep rolling while avoiding a fifth road loss in six regular-season meetings with Washington on Saturday.
Article continues below ...
Since falling 4-2 to the Capitals on March 1, the Bruins (50-17-6) have outscored opponents 50-18 in non-shootout goals during a 13-0-1 stretch to take a sizable lead over Pittsburgh in the East.
They had a 12-game winning streak end with Monday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal before bouncing back with a 3-0 victory over Chicago on Thursday.
Patrice Bergeron scored in the first period and added his 25th goal in the third, 13 seconds after Carl Soderberg extended the lead.
"Yeah, the puck’s going in, I guess," said Bergeron, who normally is known for his defensive skills. "There’s not much to say about it. It’s just, you get those chances sometimes during the year and it doesn’t go in. And now it is. Obviously, it’s great any time I can chip in offensively and keep my two-way game."
Tuukka Rask made 28 saves for his league-best seventh shutout, helping Boston rank first in the NHL with 149 non-shootout goals allowed. He’s 8-0-1 with a 1.31 goals-against average since losing to Washington (34-27-12) earlier this month.
”You always feel better about yourself when you play good against good teams like that,” Rask said. ”I don’t think they got too many chances.”
Rask recorded one of his shutouts by making 16 saves in a 3-0 win over the Capitals on March 6. He had gone 0-3-3 with a 3.55 GAA in his first six career regular-season appearances against Washington.
Boston is beginning a four-game road trip and plays Philadelphia on Sunday, so it’s unclear if Rask or backup Chad Johnson will start the first of the back-to-back set.
Alex Ovechkin, two shy of his fifth 50-goal season, scored twice on Rask in the first meeting. He netted a pair of power-play goals to stake Washington to a first-period lead against Los Angeles on Tuesday, but it let a crucial point slip away in a 5-4 shootout loss.
The Capitals are 4-0-2 over their last six as they battle Columbus, Detroit and Toronto for the conference’s two wild-card spots.
”There’s no excuse. We have to find a way to win when we are up two goals,” forward Marcus Johansson said. ”It hurts a lot. You never know when it comes down to it – in or out (of the playoffs) by one point.”
Nicklas Backstrom recorded an assist before leaving in the second period after a hard check from Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Backstrom was back at practice this week and said he "absolutely" will play against Boston.
Defenseman Jack Hillen is questionable after suffering an upper-body injury in a collision with Ovechkin. Hillen missed 60 games earlier this season due to a fractured tibia.
”You’ve got 19 other guys that have got to do the job," coach Adam Oates said. "We’ve got plenty of guys that can do the job.”
Washington plays at Nashville on Sunday, so its goaltending situation also is unclear. Either Jaroslav Halak, who made 32 saves Tuesday, or Braden Holtby will get the start.