Patrice Bergeron

Bruins go ‘above and beyond’ to take 2-1 series lead

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The Boston Bruins won the battles in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Their reward was a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and a 2-1 lead in the series.

Faceoffs are a kind of battle, and the Bruins won 40 out of 56 of those tonight. That’s a success rate of 71.4 percent, and it came against players like Jonathan Toews and Michal Handzus, two of the best faceoff men in the game.

Boston’s star two-way center, Patrice Bergeron, went 24-4 in the circle — that’s 85.7 percent — and scored a power-play goal for good measure.

Toews, this year’s Selke Trophy winner and the 2010 playoff MVP, went a mediocre 8-11 and hasn’t scored in his last 10 games.

Handzus went an embarrassing 0-for-10, with eight of those losses to Bergeron.

Of course, the most important battle of the night was won by Game 2 hero Daniel Paille. Early in the second period, he out-worked Chicago center Dave Bolland in front of the Blackhawks’ goal and snapped the puck past Corey Crawford for the opening score of the contest. And that play was preceded by Bruins forward Chris Kelly winning a battle with Nick Leddy.

The NHL doesn’t track battles, other than faceoffs. But it’s those feats of determination that so often decide games.

“We got to make sure that every play is critical,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, “every shift is important, value being out there and doing the right thing.”

Meanwhile, Bruins coach Claude Julien thinks his team is “playing the best hockey of the season right now.”

“I think it’s the energy in the game, the effort,” said Julien. “You see our guys, like I said, they’re back-checking, having layers, so when somebody makes a mistake, you have somebody covering up.

“We’re blocking a lot of shots. The commitment is totally there.

“Throughout a whole season, it’s not easy to have that full commitment. But I think when you get to this stage, players start feeling it. They go above and beyond.

“That’s what you’re seeing from our team right now.”

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.