By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
BOSTON — The Boston Bruins know they didn’t play a perfect hockey game in defeating the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Thursday night.
But they also know they secured two more points to keep pace in the wild scramble for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
“We didn’t play a great game,” said Brad Marchand, after his career-high 38th goal and an assist combined with Tuukka Rask’s shutout for the win. “We got the two points, which is huge right now. But Tuukka played a great game. You have to give him a lot of credit. And D had a lot of big blocks.
“So, we have to clean it up for next game, but we do have to be happy with the two points.”
Rask, playing his second strong game since being called out by interim coach Bruce Cassidy, made 27 saves, 11 in the third period, for his seventh shutout of the season, the 37th of his career, and his first since Feb. 12. He has allowed one goal in two games, the team has yielded two goals in a three-game winning streak.
This win, coupled with Toronto’s victory in Nashville, kept the Bruins a point behind the Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division — and Ottawa’s loss in Minnesota means second place is three points away. Both Toronto and Ottawa have a game in hand on Boston.
Looking behind them, the Bruins see the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, both winners on Thursday, three and four points behind Boston, respectively — both with a game in hand.
The Bruins see both Ottawa and Tampa Bay at TD Garden next week, when they follow their final road game of the season, Sunday at Chicago, with three straight at home.
“They had a lot of chances, but I saw them so that makes it easier,” Rask said. “Positionally, I tried to be in the right spot and as I said, we blocked shots and then took care of the second, the rebounds, what were there we cleared them and that’s a big difference.”
Marchand scored with 4:46 remaining in the first period and Torey Krug had a power-play goal 1:18 into the second period. Marchand snapped his career high in goals set last year and has 38 points in the last 27 games.
He is the first Bruin to score at least 38 goals since Glen Murray scored 44 in 2002-03.
Antti Niemi made 22 saves in his first start in the last eight games, but the Stars, already eliminated from the West race, saw their three-game TD Garden winning streak stopped.
With 8:52 left in the game, Boston’s Kevan Miller sent Curtis McKenzie to the dressing room with a high stick to the eye that drew blood. The Stars had a four-minute power play but managed just two shots on Rask.
McKenzie was taken by ambulance to a hospital, Miller said he reached out to the Dallas trainer to get an update.
The Stars issued a release saying, “Looks like it’s soft tissue, not the eyeball, but everything will be re-assessed at the hospital.”
The Stars, who finished with the top seed in the West last season, have been held under three goals in 10 of their last 12 road games and have scored one or zero in six of those games.
“We had some point-blank actually … they had a couple big turnovers that ended up on the right guy’s stick,” said Dallas coach Lindy Ruff. “Tyler had a couple great opportunities he missed the net on.”