Playoffs tonight: Bruins and Red Wings look to finish things in Game 5

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A pair of Game 5s take place tonight and we could see a pair of teams move on to the Conference finals should they earn victories tonight. Will Chicago and New York live to fight another day or will Boston and Detroit march onward?

We’ll find out tonight. Here come your previews:

Boston Bruins host New York Rangers (5:30 p.m. ET NBCSN/Live Extra)
Boston leads series 3-1

The Bruins tried to sweep out the Rangers as best they could in Game 4, but overtime heroics finally arrived for New York in the form of former Boston College star Chris Kreider. Now the Rangers will look to put a real scare into the Bruins and their faithful by extending the series for another day.

If there’s reason for the Rangers to breathe easier it’s that they finally found something working on their power play and scored once with the man advantage in Game 4. It was just one goal but for how miserable they’ve been on the power play, maybe getting one goal was what they needed to get right.

Big question for the Bruins tonight will be: How does Tuukka Rask bounce back? He wasn’t all that hot in Game 4 and it showed as the Rangers got a big jump out of being gifted their first goal of the game thanks to Rask falling down. He’ll need to lock it down tonight to help the B’s get back to the Conference finals and give Boston fans some time to relax a bit.

Chicago Blackhawks host Detroit Red Wings (8 p.m. ET NBC/Live Extra)
Detroit leads series 3-1

This is a spot the Chicago Blackhawks likely didn’t expect to be in this early in the playoffs but now we’ll find out what they’re made of. They’re down 3-1 to their hated rivals and now face the prospect of possibly being eliminated from the postseason on their own ice by them in the fifth game of the series.

That doesn’t sound right at all for everything this Chicago team has done, yet here we are. Who needs to step up for the ‘Hawks? Take your pick. Captain Jonathan Toews had a meltdown in Game 4’s 2-0 loss picking up three penalties and leading Chicago media to call him out for it. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have been similarly quiet as well and defenseman Brent Seabrook has seen his ice time cut way back thanks to performance.

If Chicago’s going to get back in this they have to find a way to shake up Jimmy Howard. The Red Wings goalie has been other-worldly in this series including his Game 4 shutout, the first time the Blackhawks were held without a goal in a game this season. Even when Detroit’s improved defense has faltered, Howard’s bailed them out in often spectacular ways.

If Chicago goes down without a fight tonight, expect there to be a lot of hard questions and big regrets coming all summer for the Presidents’ Trophy winners.

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.