BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins ended the night the same way they came in, locked in a three-way tie for the last three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Only one thing had changed: they had one fewer chance to figure things out and end their scoring slump.
“There’s only five games left, so there are 10 points out there,” Bruins forward Michael Ryder said after Boston lost 1-0 to the Florida Panthers and remained fighting with five teams for the last three spots in the playoffs. “It’s hard to find wins right now. You do feel that the team that puts it together first is going to be there.”
Scott Clemmensen stopped 36 shots for his fifth career shutout and Keith Ballard scored for Florida, which ended a four-game losing streak. The Bruins’ loss left them tied with Montreal and Philadelphia in sixth, with Atlanta two points back in ninth and the New York Rangers another two points back in 10th.
At least two of those teams will miss the playoffs.
“We could have jumped ahead of Philly and Montreal and gone four ahead of Atlanta — that’s the disappointing part,” Bruins forward Mark Recchi said. “For the most part, we controlled the game the whole game. That’s obviously not good enough. We have to find ways to win these games.”
The Flyers lost 6-4 to the New York Islanders, and Atlanta lost 2-1 at Washington. The Rangers and Canadiens were idle.
Florida is tied for 12th in the 14-team East and has only a remote chance of making the playoffs.
“We don’t have a whole lot else to play for except upsetting some teams,” Ballard said. “It was a big game for them. We are going to run into a few more of those in the last couple weeks here.”
Ballard scored 7:15 into the game and the Bruins, who have scored 29 goals while winning just three of their last 17 home games, couldn’t tie it despite controlling the puck much of the game. Boston attempted 86 shots, with 32 blocked by the defense and another 18 missing the net, to 30 for Florida.
“I got lucky on some saves. They are a little bit snake-bitten right now, and I kind of took advantage of that,” said Clemmensen, who picked up his first shutout of the season. “Better late than never.”
Clemmensen, who went to Boston College and played in the TD Garden in the Beanpot and Hockey East tournaments, shut out the Bruins for the second time.
“I have a special place in my heart for Boston,” he said. “It’s nice to look up and see BC as Beanpot champs and conference champs.”
Ballard took a pass from Cory Stillman in the slot and put it past Tuukka Rask to end the goalie’s shutout string of 121 minutes, 42 seconds, including an overtime shutout of the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
“These kinds of games, with a team who’s out of the playoffs, they come into our home building and we just can’t win. It’s frustrating,” said Rask, who stopped 19 shots. “I hope it doesn’t cost us too much at the end of the day.”
NOTES: Rask was selected the Seventh Player in an online vote of Bruins fans for going above and beyond the call of duty. … Bruins forward Shawn Thornton missed the game with an undisclosed injury. … Florida and Boston each have five games remaining. … It was Ballard’s first career goal against the Bruins.