When Milan Lucic stood at his locker after the Bruins’ win over the Flyers Saturday, he was wearing something new over his old gray T-shirt and athletic shorts. It was a jacket, black with brown leather sleeves, pilling a bit on the front.
The back, which reads “Old-Time Hockey” and “All guts, no glory,” was a gift from Bruins legend Johnny Bucyk, a new Player of the Game jacket in the tradition of last season’s Army Ranger jacket, 2012’s chain, and 2011’s starter jacket.
It also heralded something else: The playoffs are coming.
After yet another third-period flurry — three goals, including two in 31 seconds — the Bruins beat the Flyers, 5-2, in a matchup of playoff-bound clubs at TD Garden. The win ended a two-game losing streak, after defeats by the Red Wings and Maple Leafs this past week, something that had been the subject of discussion among the team before the game. It also gave the Bruins the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference and home-ice advantage throughout the first three rounds.
“Really confident,” goalie Tuukka Rask said of the team’s mentality heading into the postseason. “We’ve felt that way for a long time. If we play our style of hockey we have a chance of beating everybody. But I think especially this year we’ve shown clubs some really good hockey. And lately we’ve been playing pretty well, so I think the team feels pretty confident about going into the playoffs.”
With just four games left in the regular season, the Bruins are left to kill time, to gear up for the postseason, and mostly to remain healthy. It doesn’t hurt, though, that they’ve gotten some good competition in the last week, facing teams that are either fighting to make it into playoff position or to stay there.
“We’re trying to focus on our game and how we play — making sure that we do all the things that we’re supposed to before we start the playoffs,” defenseman Zdeno Chara said. “That means every little detail has to be touched upon, and making sure that there are no questions asked when the time comes.”
There certainly are no questions about the team’s play in the third period, which yet again was the difference. The Bruins and Flyers played to a tie for the first two periods, starting with a goal by David Krejci at 15:56 of the first. Krejci cleaned up after Ray Emery stopped two consecutive shots by Loui Eriksson, who filled in for Jarome Iginla on the top line and had one of his best games of the season.
That was followed by three goals in 1:45 in the second, after Wayne Simmonds ended Philadelphia’s scoreless streak at 165:01, a stretch that dated to the Flyers’ game last Sunday against the Bruins. He scored at 14:36 with the Flyers on the power play, but Lucic got one just 19 seconds later to retake the lead. Jay Rosehill returned the game to a tie with his second goal of the season, at 16:21, but that just set up the third period.
With three more goals in the third (on 21 shots), the Bruins are now outscoring their opponents, 102-52, in the final 20 minutes of games. It started at 13:54, when Johnny Boychuk connected on a point shot off a faceoff win with Reilly Smith screening in front.
That was followed quickly by a second Lucic goal, taking him to 24 on the season, at 14:25. Chris Kelly added an empty-netter with 20.7 seconds left. With an assist on that one, Eriksson brought his total to four on the day, a career high for points in a game.
“Obviously in the third period we kind of took it over,” coach Claude Julien said. “It shows you the team is well-conditioned. It shows our team is capable of keeping their focus and their determination for 60 minutes, and that’s been a good sign and it’s been one of the reasons we’ve had a pretty decent amount of success.”
The only thing that has yet to be determined is whether the Bruins will win the Presidents’ Trophy — they lead St. Louis, which has one game in hand, by 2 points — and who they’ll play in the first round.
“At this point in the season, we’re pretty good,” Julien said. “I think I’ve seen a little bit of our sense of urgency just dip a little bit in the last little while, but not to the point of being worried. I think it’s just a natural thing right now, and as I’ve mentioned often, our team is an experienced team and the guys know that when the time comes, they will be ready.
“To me, they’re still ready right now and playing pretty good hockey against some teams that, as you know, are still desperate right now. I think Philadelphia knows where they want to finish and where they want to be, and [Saturday] was a big game for them. And for us to come out there with that kind of a win — it shows the type of game that we’re playing right now.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.