Tampa Bay holds on to win wild Game 6, pushes series with Boston to Game 7

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In a game that straddled the line between “wildly entertaining” and “disturbingly sloppy,” the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Boston Bruins 5-4 in Game 6. This exciting win pushes the Eastern Conference finals to a Game 7 in Boston on Friday.

Each teams’ top line came up big in this contest, but Dwayne Roloson pushed his record in elimination games to 7-0 because his team was just a little bit better.

Tampa Bay 5, Boston 4; Series tied 3-3

It seemed like special teams would be the story of this game going into a wacky third period. The Lightning scored on their first three power play opportunities while the Bruins carried an 0-for-25 road PP mark into the final frame before David Krejci finally broke that slump with his second goal of the game.

Ultimately, the Lightning survived a poor performance by Roloson (four goals allowed on 20 shots), a hat trick by Krejci* and various plot twists to win Game 6.

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Big games from big names and unsung heroes

Tampa Bay’s biggest names combined for eight points: Martin St. Louis produced two goals and one assist, Steven Stamkos scored a goal and added two helpers and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists of his own. Yet the Bolts were also powered by great performances by lesser known threats.

Steve Downie continues to be Tampa Bay’s version of Alex Burrows, providing a great mix of power and skill that compliments his talented linemates nicely. He finished with two assists, including a great pass that foiled an overly aggressive Tim Thomas and allowed St. Louis to score what would be the game-winning 2-on-1 goal.

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Teddy Purcell showed that he might be an even bigger unsung hero than Sean Bergenheim, who missed tonight’s game with an undisclosed injury. Purcell scored two goals tonight, including a nice shot from a Lecavalier faceoff win that gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead just 36 seconds into the game. Purcell now has 17 points, matching Joe Thornton for fifth place in the 2011 playoffs.

This time around, the Lightning were able to protect an early lead against Boston. They rebounded from allowing the Bruins to take a 2-1 lead into the second period by out-playing them for the rest of the contest. Tampa Bay scored the game’s next three goals to take a 4-2 lead, but the Bruins were pesky in the closing minutes. Krejci scored that PP goal to make it 4-3 and then St. Louis fired back about 30 seconds later to make it 5-3. Krejci capped off his great performance by scoring a hat trick goal 13:28 into the third, but the Lightning managed to hang on anyway.

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Not a banner night for defense or goaltending

Every time this series seems like it will sink back to the tight-checking, defense-first style most were expecting, the two teams put together the type of contest that would fit in well in the wide-open 1980’s. The Bruins won a wacky 6-5 Game 2 by winning the second period and doing just enough to hang on in the final frame; the Lightning flipped that script tonight.

Even though both defenses hung their goalies out to dry, Roloson and Thomas cannot be happy with their performances.

It seems unfair for the Bruins to place so much of a burden on their Vezina Trophy candidate, but it almost feels like they need Thomas to stand on his head to win most of these games. He’s done that quite often, but the Bolts have too many talented forwards to bottle them up every night.

Roloson won yet another elimination game, but he struggled against the Bruins yet again. It’s unlikely that the Lightning would turn to Mike Smith in Game 7, but they need steadier play from their 41-year-old netminder on Friday. We’ll cover all the angles for that contest, which will air on Versus at 8 p.m. ET.

* Krejci scored the Bruins’ first playoff hat trick since Cam Neely accomplished that feat in 1991.

A big night for the rookies and a big win for the Maple Leafs

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William Nylander helped get Toronto started on Thursday, extending his point streak to 10 games — a new Maple Leafs franchise record for a rookie.

Connor Brown finished it with his 17th goal of the season, securing a 4-2 win for the Maple Leafs over the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto has won three in a row and moves three points clear of Boston for third in the Atlantic Division, with a game in hand, which further helps the Maple Leafs’ playoff chances with nine games remaining on their schedule.

Just another big night for Toronto’s impressive crop of rookies.

Auston Matthews had a pair of assists.

— Nylander had a goal and an assist. He set one and tied another franchise rookie record on Thursday.

Mitch Marner had an assist, giving him 40 helpers this season, which ties the franchise rookie record set in 1943-44.

“They’re good players,” said coach Mike Babcock, per the Toronto Star. “I didn’t know Marner would make the team. I knew Matthews and Nylander were good players. I knew Brown and (Zach) Hyman were relentless. I had no idea (Nikita) Zaitsev was as close to how good he is.

“We have lots of good players.”

In May of 2015, Babcock predicted at his introductory press conference that the Maple Leafs would, during their massive rebuild, endure “pain.” This was, he said, to be a long process — a “massive, massive challenge.”

Approaching the two-year anniversary of that event — after all the losing that franchise and its fan base has gone through, which obviously helped them with the Matthews lottery last year — the Maple Leafs are poised to make the playoffs with a nucleus of young players that present even more promise for the future.

“We just want to get in to the playoffs, and give ourselves a chance,” continued Babcock. “We’re playing well, and finding a way to win games. That’s what we have to continue to do.”

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Methot ‘out for weeks’ after suffering a shattered finger from Crosby clash

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The Ottawa Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot for the bulk of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and it seems he’ll be out for quite a while longer, too.

Methot was injured on a Sidney Crosby slash across the hand in the first period. He didn’t return to the game and there was no penalty called on the Penguins captain.

Footage showed the gruesome aftermath of the slash — Methot’s finger on his left hand bloodied and injured as he skated back to the bench.

“His finger is shattered and he’s out for weeks,” said Senators head coach Guy Boucher, per the Ottawa Sun.

Methot immediately confronted Crosby after the slash, which occurred as the Sens blue liner went to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone late in the first period.

The Senators got revenge, scoring a 2-1 shootout victory to move within a point of Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead. Crosby was also denied in the shootout.

NHL to make ‘special announcement’ in China next week

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The National Hockey League has announced it will make a “special announcement” at the LeSports Center in Beijing, China next Thursday.

In January, the league’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly made it clear the NHL has interest in playing games in China — likely starting out with pre-season games before potentially adding in some regular season contests in the future, as well.

Just after the league made its announcement on Thursday, the L.A. Kings tweeted out that they will participate in next week’s event, along with the Vancouver Canucks.

In January, hockey insider Darren Dreger reported that the Canucks and Kings were likely to play NHL pre-season games in China this upcoming September.

Last July, members of the Boston Bruins visited China, specifically Beijing and Shanghai, to host hockey clinics in those cities.

Beijing will also host the 2022 Winter Olympics.