Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Michael Ryder

Michael Ryder powers Bruins’ OT comeback, Boston ties series 2-2

There’s an old saying that a playoff series doesn’t begin until a team wins on the road.

This Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins series is flipping that theory on its head, as both teams are undefeated away from their friendly confines. Then again, maybe former Habs forward Michael Ryder just thinks he’s still at home at the Bell Centre, considering the fact that he buried his old team tonight. Ryder scored two goals, including the game winner, to give the Bruins an unlikely OT win and a 2-2 series tie.

Ryder also had an assist in the game as the Bruins continued this week’s exciting trend of comeback victories.

Boston 5, Montreal 4 (OT); Series tied at 2-2

The Habs will look back at Game 4 as a serious missed opportunity. They held three leads in this game, but couldn’t hold on any of those times.

This week’s trend of wild second periods continues.

The Canadiens carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but yet another wacky second period made instant commentary a risky proposition. Ryder tied it 1-1 two minutes in, but Michael Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn scored less than a minute apart to make it 3-1 Montreal. Like the Sharks and the Capitals, the Bruins wouldn’t just roll over; they ended up tying it 3-3 after Andrew Ference’s bird-flipping goal and a Patrice Bergeron tally.

Bruins won’t be denied in third period and overtime.

P.K. Subban showed why he’s getting so much attention by scoring a beautiful early third period goal to give Montreal a 4-3 lead, but the Bruins just wouldn’t go away. Despite playing with a full cage for the first time since his teenage years, Chris Kelly came through in a big way for his team by scoring the game-tying goal. Check it out in the video below.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Kelly also made a nice pass to set up Ryder’s overtime game-winner, which came about two minutes into the OT period. It was a great night for the line of Ryder, Kelly and Rich Peverley overall. Ryder had two goals and one assist, Kelly had a goal and two assists and Peverley had two helpers himself.

That’s not bad for two guys who just joined the team via trades (Kelly and Peverley) plus one winger who regularly finds himself in the doghouse (Ryder). Watch the game-winner below.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

While the Canadiens will look back at this game with serious regrets, there were some great individual outputs. Michael Cammalleri continues to be an outstanding playoff performer for the Habs, as he scored a goal and two assists. Cammalleri has seven points in his last three games, with at least two in each.

Both goalies had their fair share of highs and lows, with Tim Thomas stopping 34 out of 38 shots while Carey Price made 30 out of 35 saves.

The impact on both teams

The Bruins go back to Boston with a hard-fought 2-2 tie, but this is no time to relax. Losing another game at home would force them to win two straight games, including another tough one in Montreal. They can’t assume their road hardiness will last forever.

Some might wonder if the Habs can bounce back, but they showed plenty of moxie when their backs were up against the wall in 2010. They had a great opportunity to at get to three wins with two chances at home, but one road win puts them in the driver’s seat once again.

If you were hoping for a dramatic series, then the first four games have delivered in a big way. It’ll be interesting to see which team will last laugh in this hate-filled best-of-7.

Senators, Panthers fail to gain in Eastern playoff races

OTTAWA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 7: Jay Harrison #44 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates his game winning overtime goal with team mate Jeff Skinner #53, during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on February 7, 2013 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

PHT already touched on the Florida Panthers falling to the Calgary Flames on Friday, but in tandem with the Ottawa Senators losing to the Carolina Hurricanes, it makes for a night of teams failing to gain valuable points out East.

With the Montreal Canadiens failing lately, the Senators had a chance to take first place in the Atlantic by tying the Habs in points while holding games in hand. Instead, they’ll need to wait.

For the sake of simplicity, here are the Atlantic rankings, with emphasis on the top five.

1. Canadiens – 72 points in 61 games played
2. Senators – 70 in 59
3. Maple Leafs – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Sabres and Lightning have 62 in 60, Red Wings have 58 in 60

You can see the Panthers hanging around the perimeter of the top three; a point or two would have made them a bigger threat to Toronto and Boston. Alas, even with a heavier slate of home games lately, Florida has lost two straight at home.

Here’s an updated look at the wild card races after the Panthers failed to make up some ground:

1. Blue Jackets – 79 in 58, more concerned with Metro races
2. Islanders – 68 in 60

Bruins – 68 in 61
Panthers – 66 in 60
Flyers – 63 in 60

Tiebreaker situations would have meant that the Panthers would have ended tonight technically outside of the playoffs anyway, but a win or even a “charity point” congests an already snug situation. Instead, they stayed put and wasted a game.

Ottawa’s still in a solid situation to overtake Montreal or at least maintain a round of home-ice advantage as the second seed in the Atlantic. So while both teams are kicking themselves for their losses, the Panthers have more to be upset about.

Ultimately, some of the biggest winners in the East were teams that didn’t play or that have a lot less to play for.

(Perhaps the Hurricanes feel a little more optimistic, by the way, as 58 points in 57 games played means they could at least theoretically fight their way back into the discussion.)

Road warriors: Flames move to first West wild card spot with win vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Troy Brouwer #36 of the Calgary Flames celebrates his second period goal against the Florida Panthers with Lance Bouma #17 and Matt Stajan #18 at the BB&T Center on February 24, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

The road has been doing both the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers quite a bit of good lately.

Calgary moved to the first wild card spot on Friday after beating the Panthers in Florida by a score of 4-2. So far, they’ve grabbed at least a point in every game during a road trip that ends in Carolina on Sunday:

Feb. 18: 2-1 OT loss at Vancouver
Feb. 21: 6-5 OT win at Nashville
Feb. 23: 3-2 win at Tampa Bay
Tonight: 4-2 win at Florida

You can’t totally blame the Panthers if they almost miss their road trip.

They rattled off five straight wins through what seemed like a brutal road haul on paper, but now they’ve lost back-to-back home games in regulation. With five of six and six of seven slated in Sunrise, the Panthers need to make the most of these opportunities. So far … not so good.

Here’s how the West wild card situations look now:

1. Flames – 68 points in 62 GP
2. Predators – 67 points in 60 GP

Kings – 62 in 60 GP
Jets – 62 in 63 GP

(The Blues could easily slip below the Predators into the wild card spot, as they also have 67 points in 60 games but hold wins and ROW tiebreaker advantages.)

So, Calgary might not manage to maintain its hold over the first wild card spot, but this streak makes a playoff berth look far more likely.

Capitals could make home-ice advantage a serious edge in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Brett Connolly #10 of the Washington Capitals celebrates his goal with teammates against the Boston Bruins during the third period at Verizon Center on February 1, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Getty
16 Comments

Look, there’s no escaping the naysayers who will dismiss just about any Washington Capitals accomplishments with snark about past playoff letdowns.

All the Capitals can do is march forward and lock down as many edges as they can.

With 89 standings points after a tight 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, the Capitals look increasingly likely to have home-ice advantage either through the East (seven-point edge on the Penguins or the entire playoffs (five-point edge on idle Wild, who only hold a game in hand on the Caps).

Now, it’s fair to argue that home-ice (or home-court) advantage matters less in hockey than some other sports. Sure, you can line-match more often with the last change, among other advantages. Still, the biggest edges might be mental.

That said … those small edges might be enough for a team as loaded – and with as much urgency – as this rendition of the Capitals.

Heeding the call at the Verizon Center

They’ve now won 13 games in a row at the Verizon Center, improving their overall home record to 25-5-1.

The Capitals are still a strong team on the road (16-7-6), yet that home record is lofty. It also could come in awfully handy, particularly if they face off against the Penguins again. Pittsburgh’s 24-4-3 home mark contrasts sharply with a more modest 13-10-5 road record.

Perhaps this talk is all small potatoes. Still, when you consider how close things have been – in this age of parity, and in the extremely competitive Metropolitian Division specifically – it could be quite the edge.

In short, the Capitals are a pretty scary group possibly with home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. At least as of right now.

As far as the Oilers go, they’re locked in a tight race for second in the Pacific, as the Ducks currently hold the ROW tiebreaker. Grabbing at least a standings point in this one would have helped … but that’s a tall order against the Caps in their own backyard.

It wasn’t all good news for Washington, tonight:

Loss vs. Pens at Stadium Series could push Flyers to sell at trade deadline

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28:  Chris Pryor, Director of Scouting (R), and Ron Hextall General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers (L) sit at their team table on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

Is a cross-state, historic NHL rivalry not enough to drum up interest in Saturday’s 2017 Stadium Series between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins? Maybe a trade deadline hook will do it for you.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports, Flyers GM Ron Hextall already rules his team out as buyers. That leaves two options, really: standing pat or going into “sell mode.”

Hextall provides an interesting nugget in that regard: it might just come down to what happens against the Penguins tomorrow, via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman:

It seems odd to imagine that the difference between generating zero versus two standings points might dictate a team’s direction, but it also shows the power of parity in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Granted, it’s not like Hextall locks himself into one direction based on the result. Still, it sounds like that game could have some power in swaying his decision.

The Flyers have some interesting trade chips if they do decide to make a move. Michal Neuvirth fears being moved, while Steve Mason at least needs a new contract, leaving their goaltending future up to question.

There are some other interesting UFAs, particularly in defensemen Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto.

Some Flyers fans believe that they should indeed be sellers, though it’s tough to imagine many of them rooting for the Penguins to win just to make it happen.