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Maple Leafs chase Rask from Bruins crease

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It’s been the William Nylander Show in Boston tonight. However, that’s at the expense of Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

Nylander, who scored a beauty goal in the first period, completed the hat trick in the second period, as the Toronto Maple Leafs took a 4-1 lead courtesy three goals in 1:46, stunning the Bruins and their home crowd.

That fourth Toronto goal meant the end of the night for Rask.

He allowed four goals on 14 shots, and has now allowed three or more goals in each of his last five starts.

Capitals flex their muscles, put Bruins in a tough spot

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The Washington Capitals dominated the month of January, leading the league in goals scored, standings points generated and goal differential. If Wednesday’s 5-3 win against the Boston Bruins is any indication, they might just dominate 2017.

While the score wasn’t especially lopsided, the Capitals looked like a juggernaut at times in their eighth consecutive home win.

As the headline states, Washington flexed its muscles, displaying some of the feats of strength that helped them race ahead of the rest of the NHL:

  • One of the league’s best one-two punches at center showed up in a big way. Nicklas Backstrom scored one goal and collected two assists, including a beautiful saucer to set up a T.J. Oshie breakaway goal. Evgeny Kuznetsov was a menace in the latter stages of the game, generating a goal and assist of his own.
  • The Capitals also have that Alex Ovechkin guy, who remains a machine from “his office” on the power play. He scored his 550th career NHL regular season goal on the man advantage.
  • Braden Holtby was pretty sharp, especially at even-strength, stopping 28 of 29 there (while Brad Marchand scored two power-play goals). The workhorse goalie is on a four-game winning streak.
  • The other team needed it more. It didn’t matter.

On that note, the Bruins … yeah, they’re in trouble. Sure, they’re technically in the playoffs as of Wednesday, yet games in hand make you think that this is a dire situation.

Atlantic Division rankings (skipping Montreal because c’mon)

2. Senators – 58 points in 48 games
3. Bruins – 58 points in 54 games

Maple Leafs – 55 points in 48 games
Panthers – 54 points in 51 games
Lightning – 50 in 51
Sabres – 49 in 49
Red Wings – 49 in 50

Really, the Bruins can’t ignore the race for the second wild card spot, either. Anyway, the point is that the Bruins could have at least used a point from this one. Unfortunately, this game came against the Caps, so no dice.

If the loss wasn’t bad enough, it seemed like Tuukka Rask was shaken up by stretching out for a late save while Patrice Bergeron‘s return from a puck to the knee wasn’t totally convincing.

Uh oh, Part 1:

Part 2:

Long story short, the Bruins have plenty to worry about. And the rest of the NHL should absolutely be concerned about the rise of the Capitals.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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With the Columbus Blue Jackets and other strong Metro teams nipping at their heels, the Washington Capitals have plenty to gain in winning tonight. Still, the situation is more urgent for the Boston Bruins.

Yes, the Bruins are currently located in the third spot in the Atlantic, and they’re not that far behind second-place Ottawa (though the Senators have a significant edge in games in hand).

Still, the Toronto Maple Leafs and others pose a serious threat to the Bruins’ playoff hopes, and Claude Julien probably feels some empathy for Ken Hitchcock on a day like this.

It should make for a fun one to kick off a doubleheader on NBCSN on Wednesday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream link.

NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Bruins vs. Capitals; Avalanche vs. Kings

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The NBC Sports group will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. In the first game, the Boston Bruins travel to Washington to take on the Capitals at 8:00 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here.

The Boston Bruins enter the Verizon Center having won each of their last three games, including last night’s 4-3 triumph over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bruins find themselves in third spot in the Atlantic Division with 58 points in 53 games this season. Everyone is quick to point out that they’ve played five more games than Ottawa and Toronto, but with the condensed schedule set up the way it is, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing for Boston.

“I think the schedule lends itself a little bit more to that with not playing three in four (nights) all the time. Or if there’s a back-to-back, like there is to start out, then we get a couple days to fill the tanks back up again,” David Backes said, per the Boston Herald. “That said, it’s a necessity now, you’re fighting for your life, and you need to gather the points, and now’s the time.”

Unlike the Bruins, the Caps were unable to win their first game back from the break, as they dropped a 3-2 decision to the Islanders. Backup goalie Philipp Grubauer was between the pipes in that one, so expect Braden Holtby to get a crack at Boston tonight.

On a positive note, the Capitals didn’t drop a home game in the month of January. Their last home loss came in late-December, when they dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Devils. Their last regulation loss at the Verizon Center happened on Dec. 17 against Montreal (they lost 2-1 in regulation).

Heading into tonight’s action, Washington finds themselves at the top of the NHL standings with 72 points in 50 games. They’re one point ahead of Minnesota, who have a game in hand.

After that game comes to an end, NBCSN will turn its focus to the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. Puck drop in that one is set for 10:30 p.m. ET. You can also watch the game online by clicking here.

The Colorado Avalanche are one of the few teams that won’t have to worry about competing for a playoff spot. As you’ve probably figured out already, that’s not a good thing.

No team has collected less points than the Avs this season. No one is even close to being as bad as they’ve been. Colorado has accumulated just 28 points in 47 games. The team directly above them is Arizona and they’ve managed to pick up 10 more points than the struggling Avs.

Last night, they got blown out 5-1 by the Ducks, and extended their losing streak to eight games in the process.

“Like every other game, we don’t really score much and (Anaheim) is one of the best defensive teams. Just par for the course,” forward Nathan MacKinnon said, per the Denver Post. “It’s obviously tough to find positives.”

Whenever teams struggle this badly, talk about potential changes ramps up. Right now, the entire hockey world is aware that Joe Sakic could blow his team up at any moment. It’s no secret that names like Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog have been floated in trade rumors, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Avs part ways with them before the deadline.

The Kings are in a much better spot than the Avalanche because they’re currently in a playoff spot, but things can get away from them pretty quickly if they don’t find more consistency.

Los Angeles is sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the West. The only issue is that there are five teams that trail them by just two points or less.

They looked good coming out of the break, as they took down the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2, on Tuesday night, and they extended their winning streak to three games in the process.

“Well yeah, we have a few games in hand and we have to take advantage of that,” defenseman Jake Muzzin told lakingsinsider after last night’s win. “That comes by winning in regulation, especially in your division, so we were able to do that tonight and we’ve got to get on the plane here, head back, and get ready for Colorado tomorrow.”

‘That’s what we need,’ says Julien after Bruins comeback win over Penguins

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Despite tumultuous times in Boston, the Bruins will go into the All-Star break on a winning note.

Not only did they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, a tall order for any team in the league, but they didn’t let a 2-0 deficit after the first period determine their fate.

With all the talk about Claude Julien’s future in Boston and his subsequent comments about his team not being talented enough to get away with playing mediocre hockey, a 4-3 win over the Penguins is the best possible way this Bruins team could’ve gone into the break.

That, according to Julien, was a much better effort from his team, which came alive with three second period goals.

“We need emotional involvement,” said Julien, per the Boston Globe. “We need to be engaged. Tonight, we were engaged. Not so much in the first. It had nothing to do with the score. Because the goals they got, one went in off a stick, the other one was a breakdown on our penalty kill.

“We needed to be emotionally connected to this game. You saw Backes coming out and throwing some big hits. We started making plays. That’s what we need. You need to build around things like that. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo left the game with a lower-body injury and didn’t return. There was no update on his status following the game.

Speaking of David Backes, he was involved in a scuffle with Penguins scorer Phil Kessel during this one as tempers flared.

Brad Marchand, who has avoided suspension for a “dangerous trip” on Niklas Kronwall, scored twice for Boston in the second period. He’s now up to 21 goals on the season. He also voiced strong support for Julien, who has, according to reports, been on the hot seat of late.

“The speculation is driven by the media,” Marchand said, per NESN. “They don’t have the sources that they may claim. That’s not going to happen if we do our jobs. Claude isn’t the issue — if you fire the coach, what do you do? It’s not going to change anything, Claude’s one of the best coaches in the game.”