The Boston Bruins haven’t suffered three consecutive defeats this season. If they can keep it from happening Saturday, they’ll secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins could also clinch the No. 1 spot that day through other scenarios, and they’ll go for their first season sweep of the slumping Philadelphia Flyers since 1989-90.
Boston (52-18-7) suffered its sixth set of back-to-back losses to end a four-game road trip, falling 4-3 in overtime to Toronto on Thursday after losing 3-2 to Detroit the previous night. The Bruins rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period against the Maple Leafs.
Boston last dropped three in a row to end last year’s Stanley Cup finals.
"It showed some character to be able to come back against a desperate team like Toronto," said forward Milan Lucic, who scored the first of his team’s goals in the third period Thursday. "These are the type of the situations you can find yourselves in in the playoffs."
Boston will earn home-ice advantage through at least the conference finals with a win or a regulation loss by Pittsburgh at Minnesota on Saturday. The Bruins can also clinch by earning one point coupled with a Penguins loss of any kind.
The Presidents’ Trophy is also within reach, as Boston is tied with St. Louis with 111 points, though the Blues have a game in hand.
"That’s what’s going to keep us sharp here: The fact that we still have some games to play against teams that are fighting for positions and playoffs and everything else," coach Claude Julien told the team’s official website. "So that’s what we want. We don’t want an easy game; we don’t need that right now."
One those teams in desperation mode is Philadelphia (39-28-9), which has gone 1-3-2 in its last six and has a tenuous hold on a playoff spot. The Flyers have been held scoreless in their last two games.
They outshot Columbus 37-27 on Thursday – 17-9 in the second period – but were stifled by former Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in a 2-0 defeat. Philadelphia has never been shut out in three consecutive games.
"I don’t think you can start pressing the panic button or anything like that, but we definitely need to get harder, especially in front of their end," forward Scott Hartnell said.
The Bruins beat the Flyers 4-3 in a shootout on the road Sunday to begin Philadelphia’s three-game skid.
The Flyers have lost four in a row twice this season and their most recent such slide Jan. 20-25 was capped by a 6-1 rout by Boston. Jarome Iginla, who returned Thursday after missing one game due to a lower-body injury, had two goals and two assists in that contest.
Zdeno Chara also scored a pair of goals Jan. 25 and had one Sunday. Patrice Bergeron continued his surge with a goal against the Maple Leafs, giving him nine goals and five assists in a 10-game point streak.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for Philadelphia in the shootout loss to Boston.
The Flyers last went winless in a season against the Bruins in 1997-98, going 0-3 with one tie, and they were 0-3 in the series in 1989-90.
Boston will try to produce another sweep while extending a 6-0-1 overall home point streak.