Bruins beat Flyers to clinch playoff spot

Posted March 27, 2011, at 10:40 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — Brad Marchand picked a perfect time to snap his scoring slump.

Marchand’s power-play goal with 3:43 left in regulation lifted the Boston Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night.

Nathan Horton also scored to help the Northeast Division-leading Bruins clinch a playoff spot. Marchand’s goal was his 20th and first in 13 games.

“There’s been pressure on him to get the 20th and a great way to get it is a game winner,” said Mark Recchi, who assisted on the goal.

The Eastern Conference-leading Flyers had been unbeaten in regulation in their previous nine games. They are two points ahead of Washington and Pittsburgh for the top spot.

Kris Versteeg scored for Philadelphia.

The two teams could be headed for a playoff rematch. Last spring, the Flyers become the third NHL team in history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit when they beat the Bruins to advance to the conference finals.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” Marchand said. “Every game determines who we’re going to play. It’s going to be exciting watching every game because it could determine the outcome of where we’re at in the playoffs.”

With Flyers captain Mike Richards in the penalty box for high-sticking, Marchand stuffed a rebound off a slap shot by Dennis Seidenberg past Brian Boucher.

“We were patient and disciplined,” said Tim Thomas, who made 27 saves for the Bruins. “They took the penalty at the end and we capitalized.”

Versteeg opened the scoring early in the first with his 20th goal. His one-timer from the side of the net off a pass from Richards beat Thomas to the stickside.

But the Flyers, coming off a 4-1 win at the New York Islanders on Saturday night, looked sluggish the rest of the way.

“First period, we had some passions, some energy,” defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. “Then it disappeared for some reason. They did everything better than us.”

The Bruins tied it on Horton’s 23rd goal in the second. Just 4 seconds into a power play, Horton put in a rebound off a slap shot from the point by Tomas Kaberle.

Thomas went down to his knees to block a point-blank shot by Jeff Carter early in the third to keep it tied.

The Flyers went 0-1-2 against the Bruins, Capitals and Penguins in the past week.

“It’s just little things we need to correct,” Richards said. “We need to be more consistent.”

Boston is four points out of second place in the East.

“We’re focused on where we are and not where we’re going to be,” Recchi said. “We’re pretty confident we’re not going to slip past third. We just want to be playing our best hockey full speed ahead.”

NOTES: The Bruins are 7-0-1 in Philadelphia since March 10, 2007. … The Flyers are 13-6-5 without D Chris Pronger this season. He’s sidelined by a hand injury. … The Bruins are 3-0-1 against the Flyers this season. They’re one of only two teams with a winning overall record (90-56-27) against the Flyers. Montreal is the other. … Thomas is 10-2-2 against Philadelphia.

Canucks 4, Blue Jackets 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Chris Higgins had a two goals and an assist and the Vancouver Canucks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Sunday to reach 50 victories for the first time in their 40-year history.

Canucks backup Cory Schneider made 39 saves to improve to 15-3-2 and help the NHL-leading Canucks run their road winning streak to eight, matching the franchise record set in early 2004.

Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Sedin also scored for Vancouver. Mason Raymond added three assists and Ryan Kesler had two. The Canucks have won 10 of 11 overall and seven in a row against Columbus.

R.J. Umberger scored for Columbus with just under 10 minutes remaining to spoil Schneider’s shutout bid.

Ehrhoff opened the scoring at 7:52 of the first period. After a turnover by Antoine Vermette, Raymond fed an open Ehrhoff at the right circle and he snapped a shot past Mathieu Garon.

Columbus was pressing for the equalizer in the second period and had the majority of the scoring chances, outshooting the Canucks 25-12 after two periods, but couldn’t beat Schneider.

Vancouver scored twice early in the third to pull away.

With the NHL’s best power play at work, Kesler fed Sedin alone in front for a backhand flick past Garon for his 19th at 3:36. After Columbus failed to generate a dangerous scoring chance on a 1:05 two-man advantage, Higgins made it 3-0 with the Blue Jackets once again nowhere near the goal scorer. On the rush, Kesler slotted a long pass from the right wing to Higgins at the lower-left ci rcle and he snapped the puck home at 9:03.

Two minutes later, Umberger charged down the left wing and his snap shot hit the left post, bounced off Schneider’s back and trickled over the goal line.

Again alone near the crease, Higgins closed out the scoring with his 13th of the season for another Vancouver power-play goal, jamming home a loose puck.

NOTES: Canucks D Dan Hamhuis was injured in the first period and didn’t return. … Vancouver swept the four-game season series. … The Canucks lead the league with 25 road wins. … The Blue Jackets’ average attendance of 13,278 ranks 28th in the league, above only Phoenix and the New York Islanders. … Columbus narrowly escaped being shutout for the third consecutive time at home.

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