BOSTON – Jeremy Swayman bounced back from a difficult period as he saved 23 balls and the Boston Bruins scored a playoff point by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Saturday to end their season-high three-match streak.
Trent Frederick and Eric Hola scored first-half goals for Boston, who took off after winning 17 of 21.
Former Penguin Bruin Danton Heinen has scored 2-5-1 in his last eight games. Casey Dessmith held 27 rounds.
The Bruins went 0-for-2 in the power game, extending their point-free stretch to 25 straight.
The Penguins, who clinched a post-season berth earlier in the week for the 16th consecutive season and are the longest active streak among North American professional sports teams, have not peaked in the final two weeks of the campaign, and the Eastern Conference playoffs hang in the balance.
A first-round match against the New York Rangers that seemed entirely likely for weeks was on shaky ground. In the last 10 games, Pittsburgh (97 points) is only five points ahead of the Washington Capitals (92), and the latter has three games in hand with the Penguins. If Washington hits the penguins, Pittsburgh will likely fall into the second wild card slot in the East, which could mean a date against the most likely seeded Florida Panthers.
Meanwhile, the Bruins, who have played without lead scorer David Pastrnak for the sixth straight game due to an undisclosed injury, have stemmed the tide in their recent troubles and secured a post-season berth which, at times early in the season, didn’t It didn’t seem so. Sure.
“We have a benchmark here, right? So we’re not going to go out and celebrate that we made the playoffs,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “But it’s still an achievement to be proud of.”
The 23-year-old Swayman, who looked like the No. 1 goalkeeper in the playoffs about a month ago, lost his previous three decisions when he allowed in some easy goals. He made a few strong stops when the Penguins had two power plays in the second half and made nine stops in the third.
“It’s really an important win for us, especially lately,” Swayman said. “Just the fashion we did, making the little plays, the simple plays, everything was crisp and fit for us. Just so excited, clinching the playoffs, and doing it at home is the cherry on top.”
Seeming eager to clear their last choppy play, the Bruins snatched 2-0 just two minutes into the game.
“There are still some things we need to clean up,” Cassidy said. “Some decision making. We know we have to be better.”
Frederick made a backhand kick in a rebound from the edge of the crease in the opening minute. Haula then fired a shot from the right circle that rebounded into the net from Penguin defender Marcus Peterson at 2:01.
Heinen shot an upward wrist over Swayman’s left shoulder at 5:38 in a second.
After the Penguins clinched a watershed point in their previous game Thursday night with a victory over the Islanders, it was a slow start. They settled in on their play after winning 11-6 at the start.
The Bruins also played without defender Humpus Lindholm, who was out for the fifth game in a row with an upper body injury. Boston has major plans for Lindholm, acquired on a trade deadline, in the post-season, so it remains a situation to watch.
But for now, the post-season dock is secured, and Boston can work on seeding and potential matchmaking.
“It’s not easy to do, year after year, in this league,” Cassidy said of the win. “It’s not a mechanism.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.