Bruins try to put last year’s collapse behind them and finish series in Game 6

If there’s any team that knows how the Vancouver Canucks feel – even if they don’t face the same around the clock criticism in their neck of the woods – it’s the Boston Bruins. After all, they are only about a year removed from dropping a second round series against the Philadelphia Flyers despite building a 3-0 series lead. The Bruins became only the third team in NHL history to author such a collapse after coughing up an all-too-fitting 3-0 lead in the Game 7 itself.

Tonight’s Game 6 in Montreal provides the Bruins an interesting opportunity to get a heavy monkey off their backs. Will they be able to put the Habs away or will they lose their fifth consecutive elimination game?

Let’s face it, the Bruins are going against a franchise that was awfully tough to shake in 2010. The Canadiens fought back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Washington Capitals and dug themselves out of a 3-2 hole against the Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the Eastern Conference finals. They finally gave way to a Philadelphia Flyers team that was tougher and more talented, but the Habs still made quite the impression by going 5-1 in elimination games last year.

Now, obviously, the Canadiens currently roll with Carey Price instead of Jaroslav Halak in net*. Still, much of that pesky moxie remains.

So the question is: will the Bruins be able to finish them off or will they face another heart-in-your-throat Game 7 challenge? Joe Haggerty gathered the Bruins’ thoughts on the matter.

“It’s human nature to relax, you know, but successful teams – teams that have won – have always been able to play their best games in those situations, and that’s what we’re looking for from our team,” said Gregory Campbell, talking about the natural snooze button that some hockey teams can hit when they’re up in a playoff series. “We have to be at our best. It won’t be easy, but we’re taking the same approach from the last three games.”

(snip)

“We went through a lot in the Philly series last year, but Montreal went through a lot coming back in the Washington and Pittsburgh series,” Lucic said. “They’re not going to quit. There’s still a lot of fight left in that team. They’re a desperate hockey club fighting for their lives, and they’re going to do whatever they can to win.

“We’re prepared for their best game tonight. It’ll be a fun hockey game to be a part of. They’re gonna come out flying with the crowd and the city buzzing. If anything, we want to do whatever we can to have a good start.

“It won’t be easy. The fourth one is always the toughest. There’s a saying, ‘Will over Skill’, and whoever is more willing to win is going to.”

All hackneyed sayings aside, these two teams have delivered the kind of series hockey fans were hoping for once it was clear they’d square off. Some might say that it would only be fitting for it to go the distance, but the Bruins would be happy to finish off their divisional and historical foes tonight. We’ll see if they can get the job done in Game 6.

* – And, to be fair, the Bruins have a different starter this year in Tim Thomas instead of Tuukka Rask.

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.