- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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OUTCOME: The Boston Bruins have produced back-to-back solid victories, the second a 4-0 win over the Thrashers on Tuesday night at Phillips Arena in Atlanta. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made 27 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season. Boston’s David Krejci and Milan Lucic each had a goal and assist as Miroslav Satan and Steve Begin added the other goals for the Bruins. The win snapped Atlanta’s four-game winning streak.
MOVING ON UP: With wins over the Rangers and the Thrashers in the last two games, the Bruins are beginning to separate themselves from the teams below them in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, and they’re catching the teams in front of them. Boston now has 78 points for sole possession of the eighth and final postseason berth, and is only one point behind the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers. Boston has 10 games remaining in the regular season.
TURNING POINT: In the closing seconds of the second period, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff in the offensive zone. Defenseman Zdeno Chara collected the puck just inside the blue line and took a shot that was deflected by Satan, beating screened Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg to give Boston a 3-0 advantage with 3.5 seconds on the clock. That tally totally deflated the Thrashers for the final 20 minutes.
SAVES OF THE GAME: Rask bailed out teammate Dennis Wideman on three different occasions that turned out to be big saves. Late in the second period, Boston held a two-goal lead when Wideman turned over the puck in his own zone. The Thrashers’ Niclas Bergfors gained control and registered a pair of shots, both of which Rask stopped. A few minutes later, Atlanta’s Colby Armstrong broke in alone on Rask when Wideman was called for hooking. Armstrong was awarded a penalty shot, but Rask made an easy glove save to secure the 2-0 lead.
OF CONCERN: Bruins forward Vladimir Sobotka was absolutely crushed into the boards in the early minutes of the first period by the Thrashers’ Evgeny Artyukhin. It took Sobotka a moment to get to his feet, and while he was able to skate to the bench on his own, he was clearly shaken up on the play. Sobotka is generously listed at 5-foot-10, 183 pounds, while Artyukhin is 6-foot-4, 255. Sobotka did not return. According to a team official, he suffered a head injury and will be evaluated in Boston.
With Sobotka out, Bruins coach Claude Julien inserted Begin on the line with Lucic and Satan, and the trio worked well together.
PRESSURE COOKER: The game was physical and the Bruins produced sustained pressure with a strong forecheck that led to Boston’s first goal. Krejci led the attack when he notched his 15th of the season at 9:25 of the first period. He was outstanding in all areas of the ice and set the tone for his teammates.
DROP 'EM: The Bruins’ Shawn Thornton and Thrashers’ Eric Boulton dropped the gloves at the 11-minute mark of the first period. With Atlanta trailing by a goal, Boulton was attempting to give his teammates a spark. It didn’t work for the Thrashers. It worked for the Bruins.
HOCKEY IN THE SOUTH: Tuesday’s game was billed as the biggest in franchise history for the Thrashers, but you would have never known it by the number of empty seats at Phillips Arena.
BUMPER-TO-BUMPER TRAFFIC: Rask didn’t have to listen to the traffic report in downtown Atlanta Tuesday night to know there was a ton of traffic in front of him. The Thrashers wanted gridlock in the Bruins’ end, but Boston’s defensemen did a solid job clearing out the jams, allowing Rask a clear look at shots. Boston was able to collapse on the puck, got sticks in shooting and passing lanes, and stifled the Atlanta attack.
WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR BROWN: Norwood High sophomore Matt Brown, who was paralyzed while playing hockey in January, is rehabbing at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta and attended the game Tuesday night. Brown served as motivation to the Bruins, according to Julien. “We didn’t want to disappoint him,” the coach said. The family has set up a website www.mattbrownnumber3.org.