Bruins Clinch Division Title
Washington — Check two more items off the list in an impressive homestretch by the Boston Bruins. They are now Atlantic Division champions, and Jarome Iginla has recovered from his slow start to reach 30 goals once again.
Boston accomplished those feats Saturday against the Washington Capitals, a desperate team whose first and foremost goal — making the playoffs for a seventh straight season — looked a bit more distant after Saturday’s 4-2 loss.
“We need these wins so bad,” Washington defenseman Karl Alzner said, “that sometimes you overplay. It can be a big problem that can really mess your game up.”
And it’s not a good idea to mess up against the Bruins, who have won 14 of 15 and have allowed only 13 goals over 11 games. Iginla scored twice, and Carl Soderberg added a goal to give Boston a 3-0 lead in the second period, more than enough to hold off a surge from a Washington team that woke up too late.
The Bruins had already clinched a playoff spot, so the division title didn’t create so much as a celebratory ripple in the locker room.
“We don’t even talk about that. I wasn’t even — I knew there was something that would happen if we won tonight, but we find out now we’ve clinched and that’s fine,” coach Claude Julien said. “Again, we’ve got an opportunity to do even more than that.”
Patrice Bergeron added a third-period goal to extend his goal-scoring streak to a career-high six games, and Chad Johnson made 31 saves. Iginla reached the 30-goal mark for the 12th time, a nice comeback after scoring only four in the first 24 games this season.
“When you look at the start he had, nobody would have predicted that,” Julien said. “But he’s a pretty streaky goal-scorer.”
Iginla now has 10 goals in nine games.
“I’ve been getting some good bounces lately, and it’s been a fun year,” he said. “Fun to win games and be at the top of the league, and to be on some streaks as a group.”
The Bruins gave the Capitals’ top-rated power play only three chances, and they corralled Alex Ovechkin enough to keep the NHL’s leading goal scorer in a 5-on-5 slump. Ovechkin has 48 goals this season, but hasn’t scored at even-strength since Feb. 27.
The game was scoreless after the first period solely because of goalie Braden Holtby, but he could hold down the fort for only so long. A turnover at center ice allowed Soderberg to spring Iginla for a breakaway that opened the scoring in the second period.
A few minutes later, Soderberg redirected an already deflected shot by Bergeron on a power play to make it 2-0, and Iginla made it a three-goal lead by stuffing in his own rebound 41 seconds later.
Avalanche 3, Sharks 2
Denver — Semyon Varlamov had a season-high 47 saves and the Avalanche clinched their first playoff berth in four years.
Center John Mitchell had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who moved past Chicago into second place in the Central Division with 100 points.
Red Wings 4 Maple Leafs 2
Toronto — Darren Helm had a hat trick and Detroit sent Toronto to its eighth consecutive regulation loss, the Maple Leafs’ first such streak since 1985.
The Maple Leafs have 80 points with just six games remaining and might have to run the table to give themselves a legitimate shot at a second straight playoff appearance.
Blue Jackets 3 Hurricanes 2 (ot)
Raleigh, n.c. — Ryan Johansen scored a power-play goal at 2:40 of overtime and Columbus beat Carolina to earn two points in its push for the second playoff berth in club history and first since 2009.
Islanders 2, Devils 1 (so)
Uniondale, n.y. — Frans Nielsen scored in the second period and then added a goal in the shootout to lift New York over playoff-hopeful New Jersey.
Canadiens 4, Panthers 1
Sunrise, Fla. — Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist to help Montreal extend its winning streak to five games with the win over Florida.
Lightning 4, Sabres 3 (ot)
Buffalo, n.y. — Steven Stamkos scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, and Tampa Bay beat Buffalo to remain two points behind Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan also scored for the Lightning, who have earned at least a point in 11 consecutive games.