Johnny Boychuk

Redemption: Bruins sweep Flyers out, win 5-1 and set date with Tampa in East final

There will be no miracle comebacks for the Flyers this year. Boston earned redemption for their extreme collapse last season by sweeping the Flyers out of the playoffs this year and doing it in impressive fashion once again tonight beating Philadelphia 5-1.

Defense and goaltending have been the issues for Philadelphia all playoffs long and tonight they suffered bouts with both of these again. It only makes sense that the same problems that kept them from winning the first three games helped prevent them from prolonging the series and making doubt creep into the heads of the Bruins.

Things were coming up so much for Boston that the often absent from this series Milan Lucic showed up in a big way tonight adding two goals including a power play goal in the first to kick off the scoring for Boston.

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While the Flyers were able to tie things up in the second period thanks to a goal from Kris Versteeg, in the third the Bruins would not let Sergei Bobrovsky (22 saves) go quietly. Johnny Boychuk would get the Bruins the lead just 2:42 into the third to make it 2-1 and the Bruins wouldn’t look back as they locked things down defensively and let Tim Thomas do the rest in stopping 22 shots in the game. At 15:03 Lucic would score his second of the goal game to ice things. Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille would add empty net goals to complete the deal and finish off Philadelphia in euphoric style.

For Boston the win helps them build confidence as they head to their first Eastern Conference final since 1992 when they were beaten by Mario Lemeiux’s Pittsburgh Penguins. There, former University of Vermont teammates and alums Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis will do battle against each other for a shot at the Stanley Cup final. The two are old friends and with St. Louis being a Hart Trophy finalist and Thomas a Vezina Trophy finalist the stage is set for those two to have a classic battle.

Boston may have other worries however as Patrice Bergeron left the game after a collision with Claude Giroux that left Bergeron rattled. Bergeron has a history of concussion issues, those of which began against the Flyers years ago thanks to a hit from then Flyers defenseman and current Lightning blue liner Randy Jones. Coach Claude Julien did not have an update on Bergeron after the game.

Philadelphia will need to go into the offseason looking to answer the same question they had after last year’s Stanley Cup final failure: Who will play in goal? After all three Flyers goalies proved to be shaky at best, the Flyers should be focused on ponying up some money and finding some cap space for next year and beyond to take a run at guys like Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov. These sorts of disappointment don’t go over well in Philadelphia and even though they may have overshot themselves last year as a seven seed, failing out as a two seed is inexcusable.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.