BOSTON — With one month to go in the NHL’s regular season, the Boston Bruins have taken over the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Tuukka Rask made 21 saves and the Bruins beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night for their seventh consecutive victory. The win gave Boston 93 points, one more than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think we just want to get our game to the place we want to be at in the playoffs, and not worry about looking at the standings,” Rask said. “But it’s better to be on the top than the bottom.”
Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla scored for Boston one night after a 4-1 victory over archrival Montreal. Rask made 35 saves in that one, but coach Claude Julien decided to start him on back-to-back nights because he didn’t seem overly tired from the effort against the Canadiens.
“He can rest tomorrow because we don’t play,” Julien said, praising his players for not having a letdown after the game against their division rivals. “It’s not so much the (winning) streak, it’s the consistency. The consistency leads to that streak.”
Mike Smith made 18 saves for the Coyotes. Despite heading to Boston with a two-game winning streak, Phoenix wrapped up its four-game trip with a 2-2 record to remain in ninth place in the West, one point behind the Dallas Stars.
“Obviously, we need more points than we got, and .500 is not what we’re looking for,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We’ve got to go home and regroup.”
The Bruins scored twice in the first period, the first goal coming on Chara’s wrist shot past Smith, who was screened by Boston forward Chris Kelly. It was the 16th goal of the season for the Bruins’ captain – three short of his career high.
It was still 1-0 when the Coyotes had their best early scoring chance, getting a puck that got through Rask and trickled behind him. But the goalie reached back with his stick and swiped it off the goal line for the save.
“We had probably four really good chances that legitimately could’ve gone in right before they scored their second there,” Phoenix forward Shane Doan said. “We thought it went in and Rask made a great save. You know, if that goes in it’s a different game.”
On the ensuing breakout, the Bruins got the puck to Johnny Boychuk at the blue line and his slap shot was deflected by Iginla into the net. It was his 21st goal of the season.
Lauri Korpikoski scored for Phoenix with 12 minutes left in the game to spoil Rask’s shutout. Phoenix had a chance to tie with about 2 minutes to play but Rask slid to his left and deflected a shot off his skate and into the post before it rolled harmlessly away.