Bruins clinch NHL’s top record, home-ice advantage
Cheering fans stood and waved gold and black towels as the Boston Bruins claimed the Presidents’ Trophy for the NHL’s best regular-season record.
The celebration will be a lot bigger if the Bruins achieve their ultimate goal, winning the Stanley Cup.
"We’ve still got to do some work here in order to get the trophy that we all really want," Boston coach Claude Julien said.
David Krejci scored two goals, Patrice Bergeron netted his 30th of the season, and Gregory Campbell got his eighth as the Bruins dominated the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 Saturday in a game between teams at opposite ends of the standings.
It’s the second time the Bruins have won the Presidents’ Trophy, which gives them home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, since the award was instituted for the 1985-86 season.
The Bruins have 117 points, third most in team history behind 121 in 1970-71 and 119 when they won the Stanley Cup in the 1971-72 season. Buffalo’s 51 points are tied for its fewest in a season not shortened by a lockout. Each team has one game left.
"We need to play a really strong game and feel good about our game going into the playoffs," Krejci said.
Boston will end its regular-season schedule at New Jersey on Sunday. Buffalo will finish at home against the New York Islanders.
Boston’s first-round playoff opponent was still unknown, with Philadelphia, Columbus and Detroit all possibilities.
Cody Hodgson scored for the Sabres, but Buffalo sustained another blow in a frustrating, injury-plagued season. Starting goalie Matt Hackett was taken from the ice on a stretcher after Boston defenseman Torey Krug fell on his right leg in the crease with 11:35 left.
"It doesn’t look good right now," Buffalo coach Ted Nolan said.
Hackett’s leg wasn’t broken, and he was to return with the team to Buffalo to be examined by club medical personnel.
He was replaced by Connor Knapp, the seventh goalie to dress for the Sabres this season. He made his NHL debut and allowed Krejci’s second goal one minute later.
"Some nerves, for sure, especially with the crowd definitely into it," Knapp said. "And they’re on a power play, too."
Hoping for another long postseason run after losing last year’s Stanley Cup finals in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins got back on track after losing four of their previous five games. That followed a streak in which they won 15 of 16.
"We were pretty reckless with the puck the last couple games," Krug said. "That’s not something our team wants in our identity."
It was more of the same for the Sabres, who lost for the 17th time in 19 games with just 27 goals during that slump.
"A good clean bill of health in the summertime (and) we’ll go forward to next year," Nolan said. "Whether we missed the playoffs by one point or we missed it by 30, 60 points, it doesn’t matter."
The Bruins scored twice in a span of 1:29 late in the first period.
Campbell tipped in a pass by Jordan Caron from the left boards at 16:54. Krejci made it 2-0 at 18:23 after Zdeno Chara’s shot off the backboards ricocheted to him at the left corner of the net. Krejci easily backhanded the puck into the open side.
Bergeron made it 3-0 at 11:43 of the third period, taking a pass from the right corner from Brad Marchand and putting a shot from the top of the right circle through Hackett’s legs.
Tuukka Rask, who leads the NHL with seven shutouts, missed out on another when Hodgson converted a rebound of Marcus Foligno’s shot at 13:58 of the third period.
"My focus has been a little bit (on the playoffs) already," Rask said, "but I’ll rest a couple of days and crank it up."
Krejci was credited with his 19th goal when his shot off the backboards hit the back of Knapp’s left skate and went into the net.
NOTES: Bruins fourth-line right wing Daniel Paille was helped from the ice after falling hard when he collided with Jake McCabe, who received a major penalty for interference and was ejected with 12:43 left. Paille didn’t return, and the Bruins had no update on his condition. … Besides Hackett, four other Sabres left the game with injuries — Christian Ehrhoff (concussion), Chris Stewart (leg), Matt D’Agostini (lower body), and Brian Flynn (lower body). … Boston is 14-2-1 in afternoon games with one remaining. … Hackett is 1-6-1 since being recalled from the AHL on March 17. … The Bruins were eliminated on home ice in the playoffs the past two seasons, by Chicago last year and by Washington in Game 7 of the opening round in 2012.