Zdeno Chara

Bruins annihilate Canadiens in rematch of bitter rivals

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In what was one of the most anticipated games of the year, the Bruins faithful had TD Garden rocking like a playoff game. The Bruins came out like it was a playoff game. The Montreal Canadiens, however, did not come out like it was a playoff game. After the Bruins’ seven goals and a Tim Thomas shutout, the statement had been made.

The game between the long-time bitter rivals has taken on a new level of intensity this season. Their February 9th game featured about 10,000 penalty minutes and Zdeno Chara checked Max Pacioretty in their last meeting that lead to a broken neck for Pacioretty and a new debate for the NHL community all over North America. To say the atmosphere was intense for tonight’s game in Boston would be quite possibly the biggest understatement of the year.

Hopefully people enjoyed the lead up —because the actual game didn’t have very much intrigue. Johnny Boychuk scored for the Bruins 1:01 into the game and the Bruins were up 3-0 by the end of the 1st period. Boston scored two more goals in 26 seconds in the 3rd period to chase Carey Price with 15:31 left in the game. Unfortunately, Alex Auld wasn’t able to fare much better as he gave up a pair of goals—and was lucky the game didn’t last 60:01 or he would have given up yet another goal to Tyler Seguin.

Even with the impressive offensive output, the Bruins only needed one goal to win Thursday’s game. The stellar performance in net was the 8th shutout on the season for Tim Thomas and the 25th of his career. The game easily could have been a low scoring playoff preview with Thomas and Price in goal, but only one goaltender brought his “A” game.

The expected (or hoped for) game full of rough stuff never really fully materialized. Paul Mara and Gregory Campbell threw fists at each other’s faces in the 2nd period. Mara also caught Mark Recchi with a high hit that cost him 4 minutes in the penalty box. Predictably, Recchi responded with a cross-check and received a two minute minor for his troubles. Maybe the hit was in response to Recchi’s comments earlier this week about Pacioretty possibly embellishing any concussion-like symptoms for a possible Zdeno Chara suspension. Maybe it was because the two teams are – and always will be – bitter rivals. Then again, maybe it was just because it was intense competitors coming together in an intense game. Bruins forward Shawn Thornton explained the night perfectly:

“I don’t know if there were any scores to be settled. We came to play. All the other stuff didn’t matter. We did a good job all week staying away from all the bull.”

There was a sequence that was a microcosm of the entire game with about 7 minutes left and the score 6-0. Brad Marchand caught Scott Gomez up high with a mid-ice hit and it looked like the game could get ugly. James Wisniewski took issue, but both the officials and cooler tempers prevailed. Marchand was given a penalty for roughing, putting the Habs on an extended 2-man advantage. To continue with the night’s theme, Gregory Campbell scored on the ensuring 5-3 short-handed situation—on a breakaway no less. That would be adding insult to the already present injury.

Before the goal, fans were serenading the Habs with a mocking Ole Ole Ole chant. They were chanting after the goal as well, for that matter. Maybe that was adding insult to injury. Or maybe the insult was that this was the worst beating the Habs have suffered to the Bruins since October of 1998. Take your pick.

There was a ton of build-up because of the history between these clubs this season, but more importantly for the big picture were the playoff implications riding on the game. The Bruins victory increased the Northeast Division lead to a full five points (Habs only have seven games left). In an interesting quirk of the standings, these two teams would face each other if the playoffs were to start tomorrow. After Thursday’s game, the Bruins would probably be alright with that. And the Canadiens would be happy to get a shot at redemption. And fans, they’d be happy to get an entire series filled with this kind of emotion.

J.T. Miller might be breaking through for the Rangers

New York Rangers center J.T. Miller celebrates after scoring his second goal of the game against the New Jersey Devils during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Newark, N.J. The Devils won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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Don’t look now, but J.T. Miller might just be “getting it.”

By “it” you can mean a number of things: New York Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault’s confidence, his own confidence and that scoring touch at the NHL level.

He’s been on particularly hot streak for the last three weeks or so. While he failed to score in Saturday’s win against the Philadelphia Flyers, Miller reeled off a run in which he scored five points in three games and eight goals during a nine-game span.

His teammates and coach have taken notice, too, as Denis Gorman of Metro New York reports.

“The first practice I saw him, his strength, the way he shoots the puck. He has good hands, vision, he has everything to become a great hockey player,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “He’s getting there. He’s improving so much, but the biggest thing is probably just confidence, realizing that he is that good and he can use all these tools to be a great player.”

The Rangers aim to be a regular contender, and sometimes staying in the picture is all about developing prospects like Miller.

At the moment, it looks like he’s trending in an impressive direction.

Isles clobber Oilers, Okposo nabs second career hat trick

New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) reacts as he sits beside right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) on the bench after scoring his third goal for a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. The Islanders defeated the Oilers 8-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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NEW YORK (AP) After two disappointing road losses, the New York Islanders needed to face a last-place opponent like the Edmonton Oilers.

Kyle Okposo had his second career hat trick after the Islanders opened a commanding lead with three first-period goals and New York routed the Oilers 8-1 on Sunday.

Thomas Greiss made 30 saves for the Islanders (27-18-6), who moved within three points of the New York Rangers for second-place in the Metropolitan Division.

“It was good. Good to put up eight. It was a pretty good team effort,” Okposo said. “I thought we were going on all cylinders. It’s definitely nice to get rewarded.”

Johnny Boychuck, John Tavares and Nikolay Kulemin scored in the opening period, chasing former Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson, who was replaced after Kulemin’s goal by former Ranger Cam Talbot.

Boychuk, in his first home game after missing 11 games overall with an upper body injury suffered on Dec. 31 at Buffalo, ripped a slap shot past Nilsson at 2:57 for his fourth goal of the season.

“It’s always good when you strike early,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We did a lot of good things and got two points.”

Tavares made it 2-0 at 9:12 with his 19th goal before Kulemin added his sixth at 11:24. Oilers coach Todd McLellan then pulled Nilsson, who stopped only seven of the 10 shots he faced.

Okposo made it 4-0 at 2:32 of the second, then scored again at 6:09 of the middle period.

After Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid finally put Edmonton on the board with his seventh goal at 6:50, Josh Bailey made it 6-1 at 9:36.

Cal Clutterbuck increased the margin to 7-1 at 16:04 of the middle period with his 11th goal. Talbot raised his arms in frustration after Clutterbuck’s goal, seemingly exasperated with the defensive effort in front of him.

Okposo completed his hat trick at 7:27 of the third, when he whipped a shot on the power play past Talbot for his 15th goal of the season. The goal made it 8-1 and led to a cascade of hats tossed onto the Barclays Center ice. It was a season high in goals for the Islanders.

“Kyle has been playing awesome,” said defenseman Nick Leddy, who had three assists. “His contributions have been felt all year. He has been one of the best players on the ice game in and game out.”

The defeat following Saturday night’s 5-1 loss at Montreal left McLellan fuming.

“I don’t think we were prepared to play for those first few goals against,” McLellan said. “I’m very disappointed in the preparation and the approach to the game. We got our butts handed to us in Montreal and came here and responded in a very inappropriate way. ”

The 19-year-old McDavid – the first overall pick in last June’s draft – returned after missing 37 games with a broken collarbone for the opening game of the Edmonton’s four-game trip. McDavid scored once and added two assists in a 5-1 win at Columbus, then had two assists in a 7-2 victory at Ottawa.

Playing his first game since Jan. 12, Greiss was his usual stellar self. He didn’t have an especially tough game despite the litany of offensive skill on the Oilers roster in addition to McDavid.

“It always helps when we score a bunch of quick goals. It seemed like it was going our way tonight,” Greiss said. “That would be awesome if we could score eight goals every game. We have to be realistic. It’s not going to happen too often.”

Greiss improved to 14-6-2 this season, his first with the Islanders.

The Islanders improved to 17-8-3 at Barclays Center in their first season in Brooklyn after 43 years at Nassau Coliseum.

The Oilers haven’t won in New York against the Islanders since Dec. 14, 1999, when they beat the Islanders 4-2 at Nassau Coliseum.

NOTES: Former Islander Griffin Reinhart played against the team that drafted him fourth overall in 2012 for the first time. … The teams meet again in Edmonton on Feb. 28.

Habs grab rare back-to-back wins this weekend

Montreal Canadiens goalie Ben Scrivens falls after making a save while facing the Carolina Hurricanes during first-period NHL hockey game action, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The Montreal Canadiens were a bit like Ben Scrivens (in his near-ideal state) this weekend: not always pretty, but they got the job done.

A day after Scrivens thwarted his former team in the Edmonton Oilers in a 5-1 win, the journeyed goalie was integral in Montreal scraping out a 2-1 shootout win against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, it’s easy to scoff at two wins against two teams who are – let’s be honest – pretty unremarkable.

The Canadiens aren’t really in a position to laugh off any victory, however. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that this is their first set of consecutive wins since late November.

Even through all this frustration, certain top Canadiens stand out as keeping the team afloat. Andrei Markov hit an impressive milestone:

… While Max Pacioretty scored his 20th goal in emphatic fashion:

As P.K. Subban‘s numbers argue, Montreal’s biggest problem has been getting results from more under-the-radar players. In Sunday’s case, Scrivens delivered.

Montreal still faces an uphill battle, but perhaps a weekend like this might serve as a catalyst for a nice climb?

Malcolm Subban in stable condition, suffered fractured larynx

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The Boston Bruins updated Malcolm Subban‘s condition a day after the goaltending prospect was hospitalized after being struck in the throat with a puck.

“Malcolm Subban was struck in the throat with a puck Saturday night during pregame warmups. He was transported to Maine Medical Center and was diagnosed with a fractured larynx. He stayed overnight at Maine Medical Center and was transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team will provide additional details when they become available.”

Awful news, although at least he’s in stable condition.

PHT will stay tuned for further updates regarding the 22-year-old.

Subban did tweet a thanks for support:

A little context makes that a little sad, too.

P.K. Subban seems confident his brother will bounce back.