BOSTON — His 18th goal of the 2010-11 NHL season matches that of his ’09-10 campaign, but this one comes with a more dramatic finish.
The Boston Bruins clinched the Northeast Division title for the second time in three years with their 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers this afternoon inside the TD Garden.
Having not scored in his last 12 contests, forward Michael Ryder got off the schnide and scored the Bruins third, and game-winning goal on a penalty shot at 12:31 of the final period.
“It was a big goal for us,” said the humbled Ryder after the Division-clinching victory. “We’ve played better games but we got the two points.”
Thrashers defenseman Johnny Oduya hauled down No. 73 on the clear breakaway, the ref’s arm went up, and the rest was history.
“I was excited [to get the shot] I was tired on the Penalty shot so I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Ryder said. “It was a big win for us and I knew if we got the lead when I scored there it would get the team going and hopefully we would pull out the win.”
After being a healthy scratch for two of the last three games, Ryder’s struggles were hitting rock-bottom status. Throughout the month of March, Ryder went goal-less — posting just two assists along with a minus-3 rating — with his last goal dating back to Feb. 27 against the Oilers in Edmonton.
“You want to be in the lineup, nobody wants to be out, it’s frustrating,” Ryder said of his recent struggles. “It was a struggle to find goals late, just got to try and stay with it, just work hard and shoot the puck and eventually it goes in.”
For the second-straight contest, Ryder played alongside Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell on Boston’s fourth-line — posting two shots on goal in 13 minutes 26 second of ice time.
“Michael’s made to be in those situations and it’s good to see him score,” said Paille, who scored the Bruins second goal, unassisted and shorthanded . “It’s definitely a huge lift to our team and how well he played as well.”
With the regular season winding down, the B’s can now breathe a quick sigh of relief knowing the Division and home-ice advantage in the playoff are all wrapped-up. Now in sole possession of third place in the East with 99 points, Boston trails the Washington Capitals by a mere two points for the Conference’s second place.
The Bruins have picked-up seven of a possible 10 points in their last five games. And if that momentum carries on through the final four games of the regular season, the B’s can clinch that No. 2 seed in the post season.
“That was the goal when you come into the season — to win the Division, and now we did that,” said Ryder. “We still have a few games here left right now where maybe we can move up even further.”