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.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.