Boston Bruins

It’s safe to call them your first-place Boston Bruins. For at least two nights, the B’s will be in control of the top seed in the Eastern Conference after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Thursday night at TD Garden.

For the second straight game, there was a playoff atmosphere permeating the arena and on the ice. But this time, the Bruins earned two points and did it in regulation. The B’s dominated the first period to the tune of 17-6 shots on goal and a 2-0 score, with both tallies coming in the final minute. First, Tim Schaller knocked home a rebound off a Tommy Wingels shot, then David Pastrnak finished his 32nd goal of the season when he fired it from low in the faceoff circle.

Pastrnak finished with the rare “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” – a goal, assist, and fighting major.

Speaking of fighting, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was assessed a double-minor for roughing when he briefly tussled with Tampa’s Corey Conacher:

That came after the Lightning’s J.T. Miller scored on the power play to make it 2-1. The score stayed that way until 11:59 of the third period, when Patrice Bergeron scored his 28th of the season on a pretty tic-tac-toe play with Torey Krug and Brad Marchand:

Victor Hedman quickly made it 3-2 when he fired a puck through Rask on a goal that the netminder would most certainly like to have back. But Marchand eventually buried an empty-netter for the final dagger with just 56 seconds left.

It was a spirited affair at the Garden, in what was quite possibly a playoff preview between the top-two teams in the conference. It featured big-time plays and big-time emotion, the kind of mix that fans expect with postseason hockey. And it’s not over yet – the B’s and Lightning still play each other one more time before the end of the regular season.

In the meantime, the Bruins next play the Florida Panthers on Saturday in Boston.