DENVER — The dressing room had mostly cleared out, with the Bruins headed to the showers before boarding their bus to the airport for their trip to Phoenix. But from behind a curtain came a shout, “First team to clinch!” A rather subdued cheer followed.
That was it. The Bruins had just taken care of business, handing the Avalanche their first shut out of the season, 2-0, at the Pepsi Center that also counted as their 11th straight win. Boston became the first to clinch a playoff berth and is tied with St. Louis for the most points in the league at 101.
“I don’t think that does kind of change our mind-set,’’ Zdeno Chara said. “We still have to play our hockey and really focusing on the little details going into the playoffs. Not getting satisfied and complacent. We’ve just got to still push our team to our best maximum results, and basically get ready for the playoffs.”
The Bruins hardly came out giving maximum effort. Chad Johnson, who earned his second shutout of the season, was peppered with 14 shots in the first period and 10 more in the second as the Avalanche used their speed and creativity to create chance after chance.
“He stopped the pucks,” coach Claude Julien said. “He had to get better after the first because there were a lot of loose pucks around the net that he wasn’t able to freeze, so in the second period he was better. I think our whole team got better throughout the game. But when you give up, I think, 14 shots in the first and some pretty good scoring chances, I think Chad did a pretty good job for us tonight.”
Johnson acknowledged he gave up fewer rebounds and second chances as the game went on. Still, Johnson and the Bruins didn’t allow a first-period goal, the 10th consecutive time that has happened, dating to their March 2 win over the Rangers.
“If you look at the first period, we’re probably not going to have a lot of great things to say about our players, but from the second period on we just got better,” Julien said. “I kind of look at that more as a team game, more than analyzing the individuals here.”
The Bruins had far fewer opportunities, but they converted. At 5:12 of the first period Patrice Bergeron collected his own rebound off a pretty feed from Dougie Hamilton. The puck hit off his skate to his stick, and Bergeron poked it past Semyon Varlamov, giving the Bruins the early lead.
“He made a good play to go to the net, just put it into him, think I hit him right in the chest at the start,” Hamilton said. “It was a good finish after that. Pretty happy to have that.”
And they got a second in the second, making good on their only power play of the night, an interference penalty on Gabriel Landeskog. Carl Soderberg snapped off a shot at 13:11 with Loui Eriksson screening Varlamov, a goal that stood even after it was initially waved off.
They had their lead. In the end, that was all they would need.
The third period brought out the best in the Bruins defensively. They didn’t allow a shot for the first 10 minutes, then managed to withstand a full five minutes of 5-on-6 play after Colorado coach Patrick Roy pulled Varlamov early. Hamilton was so surprised that, as he said, “I was on the ice and I kind of thought there was a penalty. I was looking around.”
There wasn’t. There was just the empty net.
“When you look back, we didn’t score. Not a bad move,” Julien said. “I think he was trying to get his team some energy and some excitement there to finish the game, and it did.”
But not enough. The Avalanche weren’t able to use the extra skater to their advantage.
The win gave the Bruins points in 13 consecutive road games, a stretch that has seen them go 10-0-3. Boston’s last regulation road loss came in Los Angeles Jan. 9. It’s the longest such stretch since 14 games in 1975-76.
“For the most part, we’ve played smart [on the road],” Julien said. “I think that’s the main thing. You look at Z tonight. He was just stellar as you could ask back there. Everything looked easy for him, simple plays. He kind of dominated the back end there. And that’s what you want. You want some smart decisions on the road.
“We’re not the ones that have to put on a show, but we’re the ones that want to come out of here with a win.”
And yet again, they did.