The Boston Bruins were on the wrong end of another controversial no-goal call Thursday night, leading to a fifth consecutive loss that allowed the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers to gain ground in the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race.
The Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 to move within one point of Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, while the Flyers scored two third-period goals in a win over the Colorado Avalanche to also pull within a single point of the B’s. Detroit has a game in hand on Boston and Philadelphia has two.
The Flyers would battle the Bruins for a wild-card spot if Detroit overtook the Bruins in the division. In fact, the B’s should aim for a playoff berth from the Atlantic because their odds of securing a wild-card spot actually are worse.
Here’s a quick look at the division and wild card standings entering Friday’s slate of game (via NHL.com), followed by an examination of the pivotal matchups scheduled for the weekend:
New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7:30 p.m. ET
Another victory for the Islanders would make Boston’s task of earning a wild-card spot — if it came to that — even more difficult. The Lightning, meanwhile, have two games in hand on the Bruins and a three-point lead in the Atlanta. The better result for the Bruins is an Isles win, because the Lightning play five of their remaining seven games against non-playoff opponents and should finish strong.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Red Wings, 2 p.m.
This could be the most intense game of the weekend. Pittsburgh has won six straight games and is climbing up the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins likely will finish with more points than the Bruins given their two games in hand on Boston and two-point edge. For that reason, plus the odds in the tweet above, Bruins fans should cheer for Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m.
This looks like an easy two points for the Bruins because the Leafs are sitting at the bottom of the East standings. However, the Leafs are playing well of late under head coach Mike Babcock.
Toronto beat the red-hot Anaheim Ducks 6-5 at home on Thursday night.
Florida Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m.
This is a key game in the race for the Atlantic Division crown. First-place Florida has a one-point lead and one more game played than Tampa Bay, and when you combine those factors with the Lightning having five more regulation and overtime wins (ROW is the first tiebreaker), the Panthers need the win more.
Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m.
The Islanders play a struggling Hurricanes team that has lost five of its last six games.
New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
The Canadiens aren’t going to the playoffs, but they also aren’t an easy team to play against. They scored three straight goals in the third period of Friday’s 4-3 loss to Detroit, one night after beating the Ducks 4-3. The Bell Centre always is a difficult place to play.
Flyers at Arizona Coyotes, 10 p.m.
Arizona is 6-4-1 in March with wins over quality teams such as the Panthers, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars. Still, this is a very winnable game for the Flyers against an inferior opponent.
Penguins at Rangers, 7:30 p.m.
Second place in the Metropolitan Division could be on the line in this game depending on the results of Saturday’s matchups. The Rangers lost 5-3 to the Penguins in Sunday afternoon showdown at Madison Square Garden two weeks ago. This game will be at MSG, too, and it’s the last regular-season meeting between these rivals.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) checks Detroit Red Wings center Gustav Nyquist (14) during the third period at TD Garden.