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NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Lightning battle in Atlantic Division matchup

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2017-18 season continues on Tuesday, as the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Boston Bruins at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

This one is big.

The Boston Bruins travel to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in a game that could have two very interesting outcomes.

The Bruins (110 points) sit atop the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Lightning (108 points). Both teams have clinched, of course, but the division title is the prize here. The Bruins surge over the past couple of months saw them finally dethrone the Lightning from the summit, a spot the latter had held since October.

A win for Boston would likely clinch them the division title, barring them losing their final three in regulation and Tampa winning out. It’s possible, of course, but unlikely given the rate the Bruins are amassing points.

The Bruins lost defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Riley Nash indefinitely over the weekend and will get Charlie McAvoy back for Tuesday’s game. The rookie d-man has been out since March 3 with an MCL sprain. Defenseman Zdeno Chara returned to action on Sunday after missing nine games.

The Bruin lost a 4-3 overtime decision on Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers after battling back from 3-1 down in the third period, including a game-tying goal from Patrice Bergeron with 3.8 seconds left in regulation.

“This team, it’s fun to play together,” said Torey Krug. “We have each other’s backs and it doesn’t matter the time or the score, we just keep battling. That’s a great point. There’s things throughout the game we could have done better…thought we created a lot and they took advantage of their chances when they got them. It’s good to get the point and we’ll move onto Tampa now.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Superstar forward Steven Stamkos is questionable for Tuesday’s game after he left a 4-1 loss against the Nashville Predators in the second period with a lower-body injury.

From an entirely objective point of view, everything gets far more interesting if Tampa wins in regulation, even with the Bruins holding a game in-hand.

“It’s probably going to have a big determination of who comes first,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said on Monday. “Let’s be honest, we win the game and we’re right back at it. They win the game and they’ve probably got it. In the big scope of things, it’s game 80 but it’s a big game 80.”

Both teams would be sitting on 110 points with Tampa edging out Boston in ROWs by a 47-46 margin if the Lightning win inside three periods.

Tampa’s remaining two games see them facing the lowly Buffalo Sabres and the Carolina Hurricanes, teams that are already eliminated from playoff contention. Boston ends the season with two dates against the Florida Panthers and another against the Ottawa Senators. The Florida games could have real meaning for the Panthers depending on how the New Jersey Devils fair going forward.

Last week’s meeting between both clubs included David Pastrnak fighting and Tuukka Rask starting a brawl. This is gonna be good.


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

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

WATCH LIVE: Lightning, Bruins try to move on to Round 2

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Game 5: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (Lightning lead series 3-1)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Gord Miller, Joe Micheletti
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2)
NBC/NBCSN*
Call: Chris Cuthbert, Ray Ferraro
Series preview
Stream

Game 5: Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (Bruins lead series 3-1)
NBC
Call: Mike Emrick, Mike Milbury, Pierre McGuire
Series preview
Stream

*Regionalized coverage – Florida markets and WNBC in New York metro area will air NJ-TB on NBC and CBJ-WSH on NBCSN; all other markets will receive CBJ-WSH on NBC and NJ-TB on NBCSN

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]