The Bruins have three games left in the regular season after Tuesday’s loss, and their first-round opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs is becoming more clear.

Boston suffered a setback after being “punched” by the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden in what felt like a playoff matchup. The defeat left the Black and Gold three points behind the New York Rangers for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference.

For a reminder on how matchups for the Stanely Cup playoffs work: The top overall seed plays the lowest-seeded wild card team, and the other division winner plays the top-seeded wild card team. The teams that finished second and third in their respective divisions play each other in the first round.

What this means for the Bruins is if the season ended Wednesday, they would face the Lightning in the first round. Tampa Bay has a 10-point lead over the second wild-card team after Tuesday. It went 3-1 against Boston in the sides’ season series with two of those four games going beyond regulation.

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The final wild-card spot wasn’t locked up after Tuesday’s slate. The Capitals would clinch a spot if the season ended Wednesday, but the Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Flyers remain in contention for the postseason. Washington is up one point over Pittsburgh and Detroit after Tuesday, and it’s up two points over Philadelphia.

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Boston plays Pittsburgh on Saturday and Washington on Monday in its next two games, and those contests will be huge for playoff implications. The Black and Gold split the season series between the Penguins and Capitals heading into those matchups. The Bruins went 2-1 in their season series over the Flyers, and Boston split its season series with the Detroit Red Wings.

The postseason never is a cakewalk, but Boston obviously would benefit as the top overall seed rather than get a tougher first-round matchup against a formidable opponent like Tampa Bay.

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New York’s final three games are against the Flyers, Islanders and Senators. The Rangers dominated Philadelphia this season, but their New York rival and Ottawa earned wins against them this season, so there is an opportunity for the B’s.

Of course, this is dependent on Boston winning out its final three games against Pittsburgh, Washington and Ottawa; two out of those three matchups are on the road. If the Bruins falter, or if the Rangers secure the top overall seed, they’ll prepare for a seven-game series against the Lightning.

Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images