News and notes: Do-or-die time for Bruins

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Game 6: Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (watch on NBC and live online) – Blackhawks lead series, 3-2

Tonight in Game 6 at TD Garden, the Blackhawks will try to win their fifth Stanley Cup title in their 87th NHL season, while the Bruins will try to avoid elimination and force a Game 7 in Chicago on Wednesday evening.

Patrice Bergeron, who leads the Bruins with four goals this series and is tied for the team lead with David Krejci with nine goals this postseason, will likely be a game-time decision after suffering an undisclosed “body” injury in Game 5. Bergeron left the game after playing only 49 seconds in the second period and was taken to a local hospital for observation. He was released Saturday night and traveled home with the team Sunday morning. If Bergeron is unable to play in Game 6, head coach Claude Julien may have a difficult challenge putting together his forward lines. Carl Soderberg, who made his NHL postseason debut on the fourth line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton in Game 5, could be slotted on the second line alongside Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. Another leading candidate would be Tyler Seguin, who centered the line with Marchand and Jagr when Bergeron missed six games with a concussion in early April.

The Hawks also face a possible injury dilemma. Jonathan Toews, who edged Bergeron for the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward this season, missed the entire third period after absorbing a hard hit to the shoulder region – one of 53 hits registered by the Bruins in Game 5 – by defenseman Johnny Boychuk in the attacking zone. The team is optimistic that Toews’ “upper-body injury” will not force him out of Game 6, but if he is unable to play, former Junior Bruin and Boston College Eagle Ben Smith may be reinserted into the lineup. Smith replaced the injured Marian Hossa in Game 3, but had zero points in 10:23 of ice time.

The Blackhawks, who are 18-4 overall (8-2 on the road) in Games 5-7 under Joel Quenneville since he took over as the head coach during the 2007-08 season, clinched their two most-recent Stanley Cup titles – 1961 and 2010 – on the road. The Bruins, however, have recently been in this situation before in the Cup Final. The B’s were down three-games-to-two to the Canucks in 2011, won Game 6 at home (5-2), then captured the Cup in Vancouver two nights later.

SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE

  • The Blackhawks have won five straight postseason Game 6s on the road, including a 4-3 defeat of the Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinal series on May 27 (last loss: May 1995 at TOR).
  • The Bruins have won four straight postseason Game 6s at home (last loss: May 1998 vs. WSH).

DID YOU KNOW?

On Jan. 19, the Chicago Blackhawks opened their regular season with a 5-2 defeat of the Los Angeles Kings. With a win tonight or in Game 7, the Hawks could become only the second team since the NHL gained control of the Cup in 1927 to open their season against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and finish it by raising the Cup themselves. The Detroit Red Wings began their 2007-08 season by defeating the reigning Cup champs, the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2 in a shootout. (It was the Ducks’ third game of the season.)

Note: The 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes began their winning campaign by knocking off the most recent (2004) Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-2. However, the title was considered vacant due to the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

LINKS

  • Injury to Patrice Bergeron hurts all of hockey [Boston Herald]
  • Bruins radar having trouble locating Blackhawks [National Post]
  • Blackhawks finding an answer for Zdeno Chara [New York Times]
  • Hawks know final victory will be toughest one to get [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • With or without Toews or Bergeron, it’s been an epic series [Globe & Mail]
  • Words take on special meaning at Stanley Cup Final [ESPN]

Leafs chase Rask, hold on to win Game 5

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The Toronto Maple Leafs came into Saturday’s game facing elimination, but they managed to extend force a sixth game thanks to a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins.

The Maple Leafs managed to build up a 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission thanks to goals by Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson. They also had a 4-1 lead in the second period. That’s when the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.

After the goalie swap, Sean Kuraly managed to cut the deficit to 4-2 before the end of the frame.

 

Toronto did their best to blow their lead, as they took penalty after penalty in the second half of the game. The Leafs took the final four penalties, but the Bruins failed to convert on their opportunities on the man-advantage. They even gave the Bruins a 5-on-3 power play for over 1:30 before Kuraly scored moments later.

Goalie Frederik Andersen turned aside 42 of 45 shots. This was the third time in five games that he faced at least 40 shots in this series.

The Leafs will now return home for Game 6 on Monday night. They’ll need to perform more like they did in the first half of Saturday’s game if they want to force Game 7 in Boston.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Backstrom provides OT winner as Capitals take 3-2 series lead

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The Washington Capitals are on the verge of the second round.

Yes, the Capitals, who began the series with back-to-back losses in Game 1 and 2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, are now on the brink of eliminating Ohio’s team after Nicklas Backstrom‘s deft deflection in overtime gave the Capitals their third straight win and a 3-2 series lead.

It was the fourth time in the series both clubs played to a tie in regulation. After Columbus won the first two in OT, Washington replied with a win in double-overtime in Game 3 before Backstrom ended Game 5 at the 11:53 mark of the first frame of free hockey.

Backstrom scored his first goal of the series to open the scoring for the Caps and assisted for the sixth time in the series on the go-ahead goal in the second period before Oliver Bjorkstrand tied it in third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Braden Holtby had to be sharp, especially in the third period as, inexplicably, the Caps were outshot 16-1. At home. Holtby made 40 saves when it was all said and done.

Two-hundred feet away, Sergei Bobrovsky was up to the task, making some silly stops including a big one on Alex Ovechkin earlier in overtime and a bigger one in regulation time off the same man’s stick.

Game 6 of this series is slated for Monday in Columbus, with a start time still to be determined.

In his post-game comments, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella said, twice, that his team will be back in the capital for Game 7.

The promise has been made.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy shine as Lightning eliminate Devils in 5

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One’s up for the Hart as the NHL’s best player while the other is up for the Vezina as the league’s top goaltender. Both combined their talents to eliminate the New Jersey Devils with a 2-1 win in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday.

Nikita Kucherov was once again on point for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Saturday’s matinee. Leading 1-0 in the third period, Kucherov scored a clutch goal — his fifth of the series — to put the Lightning from just inside the blue line to put the Bolts up two with seven minutes and change remaining.

It proved vital, Kucherov’s goal, as the Devils attempted a late comeback with Kyle Palmieri scored with three minutes remaining after Devils pulled Cory Schneider for the extra attacker 30 seconds earlier.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall in the final 180 seconds, stopping 26-of-27 to help usher the Lightning into the second round.

Tampa, the Atlantic Division winners in the regular season, will face the winner of the series between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, who play later on Saturday in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3-1.

Kucherov was as immense for the Lightning as he was oppressive for the Devils, adding five assists to bring his series total to 10 points. His usual scoring touch was supplemented by his play in the physical department, including this bone-crushing hit on New Jersey defenseman Sami Vatanen.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

For the Devils, it was hard-fought series from a young team still trying to find its way in the playoffs.

The Devils abandoned goalie Keith Kinkaid after dropping the first two games. Cory Schneider, who hadn’t won a game in 2018 before Game 3, came in and provided the spark in goal, one that seemed to get the Devils going at the other end of the rink as well as they rolled to a 5-3 win.

But that well ran dry in Game 4 as the Devils produced just one goal in a 3-1 loss. Game 5 was much the same, production-wise, with the Devils only managing one goal.

Fellow Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall provided two goals and six points in the series after a 93-point regular season. Rookie Nico Hischier managed just a goal after scoring 20 in his rookie campaign.

For Vasilevskiy, after looking far more human in the second half of the season, finding his mojo again can only be mean bad things for future playoff opponents.

The young Russian finished with a .941 save percentage in the series.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Blue Jackets’ Matt Calvert scores unusual breakaway goal

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We’ve all see some breakaways go horribly, horribly wrong in the past.

Patrik Stefan reigns supreme here. Devin Setoguchi didn’t fare too well on this one. And then there was this gaffe by Dennis Wideman once upon a time.

But sometimes one screws up, only to rebound quickly and turn a near-blunder into a nice-ish goal.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert did that today, in what’s already being called the best/worst breakaway attempt of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As you can see in the video above, Calvert gets a nice clean breakaway. As he attempts to first a wrist shot, he whiffs on the attempt but manages to corral the puck back, doing the whole spin-o-rama thing, and deposit the puck past Braden Holtby for his second goal of the game.

Sometimes it just all works out.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck