The Bruins waited nearly a month for a power-play goal. They could wait a few more minutes for officials to make sure it was clean.
David Pastrnak ended the 12-game drought that dated to April 2 when he took a feed from Taylor Hall and went forehand-backhand through the five-hole of Sabres goalie Dustin Tokarski at 2:11 of the third period.
The Bruins were 0 for 36 on the power play coming into the game and came up empty on three more opportunities Thursday night before finally cashing in, but the celebration was relatively muted.
For one, the goal put them up 3-0.
“We didn’t need the goals,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “But we don’t need to be talking about it forever. So it’s good to get it out of the way.
And then there was the matter of whether Brad Marchand, who set up the goal with a give-and-go to Hall, was able to keep the puck in on the right side of the blue line while Hall darted into the offensive zone.
It took a few rewinds, but officials determined the play was onside. The crowd erupted. The horn blared. Hall added another power-play goal two minutes later for good measure. The Bruins exorcised their power-play demons just in time for the playoffs on the way to a 5-0 win over Buffalo at TD Garden.
“It was going to come sooner or later,” Cassidy said. “Just like when things are going well, sometimes when you’re on a roll on your power play, you get some goals that probably go in that shouldn’t. So tonight hopefully that loosened some guys up and it carries forward.”
They’ve won four straight games with one remaining in the season, Friday night at Toronto. The Bruins finished 26-13-2 at home.
The Bruins’ playoff outlook comes down to Friday’s results.Tampa Bay fell, 5-2, to Columbus, leaving the door open for the Bruins to pass the Lightning for third in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning face the Islanders Friday, and if they lose and the Bruins beat the Maple Leafs, the Bruins will face Toronto in the first round.
Otherwise, the Bruins will be the top wild-card team and face the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round starting next week.
Cassidy admitted he was doing a bit of scoreboard watching, especially with Bruins staff already scouting possible opponents.
“We were watching Tampa, only because that’s the only team we can catch,” Cassidy said. “So for curiosity and some of the work we’re doing already trying to get out in front of it.”
Patrice Bergeron reached the 400-goal plateau with his second hat trick of the season.
“One thing that’s special is the fact that I scored all the goals with the Bruins,” Bergeron said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me that I take out of it is it’s been a great ride with one organization and something that doesn’t happen often and I’m proud of that.”
The Sabres have been eliminated from playoff contention since April 2, but they came in on a four-game winning streak.
The Bruins, who seemed to ease their way into the game putting just six shots on goal in the first period (none from the top line), snapped it by completing a sweep of the three-game four-game season series.
The Bruins didn’t have to wait long for a power-play opportunity. Their first came at the 1:26 mark in the first period when Henri Jokiharju tripped Jake DeBrusk, but they couldn’t end the drought.
Still, they had a sense the tide would eventually turn.
“I thought we had some good looks tonight throughout,” Bergeron said. “It was nice to kind of end it and we can move forward, especially right before the playoffs. I think it’s perfect timing.”
Buffalo had plenty of their own chances with a man advantage, but couldn’t crack the ninth-best penalty kill in the league.
The Bruins killed three penalties over a nine-minute stretch from the end of the first period to the start of the second. They took a 1-0 lead when Bergeron crashed the net after a DeBrusk attempt and poked in the rebound for his 23d goal of the season at 6:16 of the second period.
Bergeron made it 2-0 at the 12:29 mark, stealing the puck in the neutral zone, fighting along the boards to keep it in the Bruins’ zone, making a quick pass to DeBrusk behind the net, then relocating for a clean look from the slot.
Officials reviewed the play to see if Nick Foligno was offside as he tried to get over the board, but determined Foligno got his skate into the neutral zone, so Bergeron’s second goal of the game stood.
Goalie Linus Ullmark earned his first shutout as a Bruin, stopping 37 shots against his former team on the way to his 26th win of the season.
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.