With bigger plans ahead, the Boston Bruins secure a playoff berth in the East, a feat that ‘isn’t automatic’

BOSTON — Jeremy Swayman rebounded from a tough 23 save streak and the Boston Bruins clinched a playoff berth by holding the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Saturday to end a league-high three-game losing streak. season.

Trent Frederic and Erik Haula scored first-period goals for Boston, which slipped after winning 17 of 21.

Former Bruin Danton Heinen scored for the Penguins, who are down 2-5-1 in their last eight games. Casey DeSmith stopped 27 shots.

The Bruins went 0-2 on the power play, extending their scoreless streak to 25 straight games.

The Penguins, who clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week for the 16th consecutive season, the longest active streak among North American professional sports teams, aren’t at their peak until the final two weeks of the campaign. , and their Eastern Conference playoff seeding is suspended. the balance.

A first-round game against the New York Rangers that seemed quite likely for weeks is on shaky ground. At 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, Pittsburgh (97 points) is only five points ahead of the Washington Capitals (92), and they have three games in hand over the Penguins. If Washington catches up to the Penguins, it’s possible Pittsburgh will drop into the wildcard second spot in the East, which would mean a date against the likely top-seeded Florida Panthers.

Meanwhile, the Bruins, who have played without leading scorer David Pastrnak for a sixth straight game due to an undisclosed injury, have stemmed the tide of their recent woes and secured a spot in the playoffs that sometimes early of the season, did not seem so assured.

“We have a standard here, don’t we? 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 accomplishment you should be proud of.”

The 23-year-old Swayman, who looked like a lock to be the No. 1 goaltender in the playoffs about a month ago, lost his previous three decisions when he allowed a few easy goals. He made a handful of solid saves when the Penguins had two power plays in the second period and was steady with nine saves in the third.

“It’s really a big win for us, especially lately,” Swayman said. “Just the way we did it, making small plays, simple plays, everything was clean and crisp for us. Just super excited, getting the playoffs, and getting it at home is icing on the cake.”

Seeking to erase their recent sporadic play, the Bruins took a 2-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

“There are still things we need to clean up,” Cassidy said. “A bit of decision-making. We know we have to be better.”

Frédéric backhanded in a rebound from the edge of the slot in the first minute. Haula then fired a shot from the right circle that ricocheted into the net of Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson at 2:01.

Heinen fired a rising wrist over Swayman’s left shoulder 5:38 into the second.

After clinching a playoff berth in their previous game Thursday night with a win over the Islanders, the Penguins are off to a slow start. They stabilized their game after being outplayed 11-6 first.

The Bruins also played without defenseman Hampus Lindholm, out for the fifth straight time with an upper-body injury. Boston has big plans for Lindholm, acquired at the trade deadline, in the playoffs, so this remains a situation to watch.

But for now, the playoff spot is secure and Boston can get to work on the seeding and potential matchups.

“It’s not easy to do, year after year, in this league,” Cassidy said of the win. “It’s not an automatic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.