Bruins pound Maple Leafs to hold final playoff spot

Tue Mar 25, 2008 11:39pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Boston Bruins pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2 on Tuesday to halt a three-game losing skid and cling to the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

Boston maintained a tenuous grip on eighth place but it remains far from secure with the surging Washington Capitals, 3-2 winners over the Carolina Hurricanes, lurking just two points back entering the final weeks of the regular season.

"We needed this badly," Bruins netminder Tim Thomas told reporters. "Our backs have been up against the wall, we haven't come through every time but we have come through a few times.

"We're sticking together trying to do what we have to do to get ourselves in the playoffs."

The Maple Leafs' post-season hopes appear all but over after they slipped six points behind the Bruins with just five games left.

A grim-faced capacity crowd quietly exited the Air Canada Centre knowing the Leafs are poised to miss the playoffs for a third straight year, the storied franchise's longest post-season barren stretch in 80 years.

Just weeks ago the Bruins had looked assured of playoff spot but slowly slipped down the standings, losing six of last seven.

At the same time the Leafs, who sat near the bottom of the NHL standings in mid-January, entered the race with five wins in six games.   Continued...

<p>Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker (L) hooks Boston Bruins Glen Murray for a penalty during second period action in their NHL game in Toronto March 25, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill</p>