The Boston Bruins had a single priority entering Thursday: staying healthy before providing rest for their battle-tested core in Friday’s regular-season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs. They achieved that goal during a 5-0 victory in their final matchup of the year with the Buffalo Sabres.
Bruce Cassidy’s club checked off some other items on their pre-playoff to-do list.
Patrice Bergeron notched a hat trick for his 398th, 399th and 400th goal(s) of his NHL career.
Boston’s power play ended its drought at 39 straight attempts on David Pastrnak’s 40th goal of the season. Taylor Hall notched his 20th of the season on the ensuing power play early in the third period.
Former Sabre Linus Ullmark notched his first career shutout on a night where his goaltending partner, Jeremy Swayman, became the latest recipient of NESN’s annual 7th Player Award.
But the Bruins didn’t come out of Thursday knowing their first-round fate after the Tampa Bay Lightning fell to Columbus Blue Jackets. They’ll know for sure who they’ll face after Friday’s results.
A regulation loss in Toronto or wins from both the Bruins and Lightning will result in the B’s facing the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. An overtime appearance and a Tampa regulation loss against the Islanders or a win and any Lightning setback means the Bruins will face the Maple Leafs in Round 1.
In the meantime, here’s what we learned from Thursday’s regular-season Causeway St. finale.
The hats came flying for Bergeron’s 400th
With a 4-0 lead, the Bruins had things well in control entering Bergeron’s final shift of the night on an offensive zone faceoff late in the third period.
Cassidy and the coaching staff could’ve trotted out his third or fourth line to finish out Game No. 81. Instead, they wanted to give Bergeron a chance to achieve his milestone.
Bergeron hit the ice for his last twirl of the night one tally shy of 400. But the ever-humble Bergeron only had one goal in mind heading into his upcoming draw against Tage Thompson.
“To win the faceoff. That was my first thing for sure,” Bergeron said. “That was it really. Nothing else.”
Hampus Lindholm received the puck off Bergeron’s faceoff win. Bergeron then went into the slot to put himself in position for the milestone marker. He took a feed from Charlie McAvoy and promptly fired home his third of the night past Sabres netminder Dustin Tokarski.
Bergeron’s teammates huddled around their captain for a group hug following the seven-second sequence leading to his special 400th tally — all coming as a member of the Bruins.
“It is special. And what’s special is the fact that I’ve scored all the goals with the Bruins. I think that’s the biggest thing for me that I take out of it. It’s been a great ride with one organization, and it’s something that doesn’t happen often, and I’m proud of that.”
Bergeron’s next accolade: 1,000 career points. He’s 18 shy of achieving that feat.
Ullmark notches his first Boston shutout against his former team
Like many of his fellow newcomers, it took a little time for Ullmark to settle into his new home. The Swede embraced the process, finding his groove late in the 2021-22 season en route to solidifying Boston’s No. 1 goaltending spot for its first-round matchup against Carolina or Toronto.
The down and out Sabres tested their former goalie with 37 shots Thursday night. Some chances were rather routine. But Ullmark had a healthy workload, facing a variety of looks and stopped them all for his first shutout in a Bruins uniform.
“There were a lot of emotions,” Ullmark said. “Obviously playing your old team, it puts a more special feeling toward it.”
Barring any unusual development with Swayman on Friday, Ullmark will receive a few days of rest before embarking on his first career postseason. Cassidy wouldn’t tip his hand at revealing his Game 1 starter, but Ullmark appears on track to man the crease when the Bruins begin their playoff journey.
No matter his role, Ullmark looks forward to the postseason opportunity after spending his first six seasons in hockey purgatory.
“I am excited. Whenever the thought has come into my head, I’m excited about the opportunity to play for the Cup. That’s what everybody strives for, to have the opportunity. It means a lot that my hard work and lady luck has been on my side as well. To end up in a place like Boston with great teammates and a great organization that brings its A-game every single game, it’s been great. And it can only be better from now on as well.”
The power-play drought finally ends at 39
Erik Haula’s go-ahead third-period tally against the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 2 marked Boston’s last power-play goal for nearly a month. After that, they embarked on an 0-for-39 stretch, providing fans with flashbacks of their 2011 woes with the man-advantage.
The Bruins top-power playunit got a needed return from Pastrnak last weekend. The slump continued in his recent three-game stint, yet they generated a handful of quality looks in their wins over the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers. That trend continued Thursday, yet the B’s PP still felt snakebitten with Pastrnak hitting the post on their second attempt of the night.
Pastrnak didn’t let that missed second-period opportunity linger. The Bruins finally broke the power-play drought — after confirmation from an offside review — when Pastrnak notched his 40th goal of the season for a 3-0 lead 2:11 into the final stanza.
Boston’s top-power play unit went back to work after Buffalo’s second failed offside challenge of the night resulted in a four-minute power play. Hall scored on the back half of the double-minor, extending Boston’s cushion to 4-0 at 4:16 of the third.
“It caught my eye that we scored. It’s been a long time,” Cassidy said of Pastrnak and Hall scoring on the power play to end their lengthy skid. “I can’t believe Pasta’s in the second period [didn’t go in]. Then I thought it wasn’t meant to be until the next night. But they made a good play on the entry, and it was close to offside. And then the second goal… in the past against Buffalo we were able to get to the front of the net and get some chances that way. And Hallsy was there and got rewarded.”
The Bruins will need to clean up some troubling trends come playoff time. But at least they won’t have one painful drought hovering over them.
“We didn’t need the goals, but we didn’t need to talk about them forever,” Cassidy added. “So it was good to get that out of the way.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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