Andrew Ference

Bruins not letting previous home ice success get to their heads before Game 6

Home ice has turned out to be a very big deal in the Stanley Cup finals. After a playoffs that saw the road teams get their licks in on the home standing favorites the finals have proved to be a case where everyone is holding serve in their own respective ways. Vancouver has done it with physicality, tight checking, and taking advantage of turnovers. Boston has done it with brutal physical play and lighting up Roberto Luongo and the Canucks defense.

Heading into tonight’s Game 6, it’d be easy to see how the Bruins could be teeming over with confidence. After all when you win games by scores of 8-1 and 4-0 at home, it might be easy to fall into a comfort zone bordering on cockiness. In speaking with Bruins players after today’s morning skate, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Games 3 and 4 don’t matter right now. Game 6 is Game 6,” says Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. “Tonight’s a new night. Just because we were good in Games 3 and 4 doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy tonight. It’s going to be the toughest game by far.”

While Thornton is the voice of reason in what should prove to be a mad atmosphere tonight, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference went a bit deeper with his thoughts on how different tonight will be compared to how it was when the Bruins rolled Vancouver in back to back games last week.

“It sets the bar for what we have to do. I think that’s what it’s all about – playing to your potential as individuals and as a team,” Ference says.

“We’ve had different games throughout the playoffs in different series you pick out the games and you set the bar for what the coaches expect for you and what you expect to yourself and really all you’re trying to do throughout the whole playoffs is meet that bar. You don’t have to go out as an individual and do miraculous things you just have to play as good as you can. That’s all you can really ask.”

“Those games in our building we played well, we felt well and our confidence was there. It’s not automatic that it’s going to happen but it shows you what it takes to have success against this team,” Ference concludes.

Ference’s thoughtfulness on the matter comes from experience. He was a member of the 2004 Calgary Flames team that lost to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup finals in seven games. If there’s a guy in the room the Bruins should tilt their ears to more often than not, it’s him. He’s been here  before and knows what it’s like. His Flames team that year dropped the final two games of that seven game series to the Lightning. That Calgary team also lost two of the three home games they had that year.

For Boston, they can’t afford to lose this last one or else they’ll be watching the Canucks skate around their ice with the Stanley Cup. That’s something Ference would rather not see.

“A loss is a loss and maybe people view it different ways but I don’t know… I’ve lost in different rounds of the playoffs and they all feel pretty crappy.”

The Bruins hope that that crappy feeling can be avoided, especially at home tonight.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.