By IRA PODELL, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron scored second-period goals, and Tim Thomas made 33 saves for the Boston Bruins, who clinched the Northeast Division title with a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Sunday night.
Boston also prevented the Rangers from winning the Atlantic Division and securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. New York needs only one point in its final three games to finish first.
Marian Gaborik scored his 40th goal of the season early in the first period, but the Rangers couldn't muster much else against the defending Stanley Cup champions, who also locked up the No. 2 seed. Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves for New York, which leads Pittsburgh by five points.
The Rangers had won four in a row and six of seven. They outshot the Bruins 19-3 in the third period, but couldn't get even.
The Bruins stormed back in the second period, first with a tying goal from Seidenberg and then the go-ahead tally by Bergeron. Boston, 7-1-1 in its last nine games, swept a weekend in New York with victories over the Islanders and Rangers on back-to-back days.
Thomas, who got the day off Saturday, is 5-1-1 in his past seven outings. He made the most of the little bit of offensive support provided by his teammates.
After Brad Richards lost control of the puck as he attempted to carry it out of his own end, the Bruins worked it back around and set up Seidenberg for a slap shot that beat Lundqvist, who appeared to be briefly screened when players crossed in front of him, at 4:00.
Seidenberg was a welcome addition for the Bruins, who got him back after a two-game injury absence — the only games he has missed this season. Seidenberg has scored in consecutive games after going 26 straight without a goal. The defenseman has five this season.
Bergeron got help from the Rangers in netting his 22nd of the season during a power play with 8:08 left in the second. New York defenseman Dan Girardi had the puck in the corner to the right of Lundqvist, but had it knocked off his stick by Tyler Seguin. He nudged it over to Bergeron, who jammed a shot in at the left post to make it 2-1.
The Rangers' 25th-ranked power play plagued them again as New York went 0 for 3 on the advantage, including a two-man edge for 22 seconds in the third period when Boston took consecutive penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and delay of game.
New York thought its power play was getting in shape after the Rangers scored two man-advantage goals in each of the previous two games for the first time this season.
Thomas had a scary moment in the closing minutes when he came far out to play the puck, and fumbled it, but Derek Stepan couldn't put a backhander past him into the vacated net.
Gaborik gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 4:33 in with no assists from his teammates but a big one from Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. The 6-foot-9 defenseman fired a shot from the left point that struck teammate Jordan Caron and knocked him to the ice. Gaborik picked up the loose puck and raced to the other end on a breakaway. He beat Thomas, who had skated out above the crease, between the pads. Gaborik excitedly celebrated his milestone goal, crouching to his knees and pumping his arms.
Caron gingerly made his way back to the Bruins bench and returned to the ice shortly after receiving treatment.
Gaborik reached 40 goals for the third time in the NHL — all in the past five seasons and twice in three with the Rangers.
Notes: Bruins C Gregory Campbell sat out one day after he was struck in the foot by a puck. Seidenberg returned after a two-game absence because of an infection in a cut above his left knee. ... Rangers D Michael Del Zotto checked Rich Peverley into the New York bench in the second period, drawing harsh words from the Bruins center once he got back onto the ice.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.