NHL on NBCSN: Bruins aim to complete sweep of Sabres

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Boston Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Bruins missed a key opportunity to gain an edge in the battle for the top Wild Card spot when they suffered a 2-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday, but even with that setback factored in, Boston has been one of the league’s best teams lately.

The problem is the Bruins haven’t been the best squad in recent weeks. Led by rookie goaltender Andrew Hammond, the Ottawa Senators have posted an incredible 11-1-1 record starting with their victory against Montreal on Feb. 18. The Bruins are the only thing standing between Ottawa and a playoff spot and while Boston still has a five-point edge, the Senators are a constant remainder that the Bruins can’t afford to slow down now.

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Tonight’s game against the lowly Buffalo Sabres provides Boston with a great opportunity to pick up two points, but given that it comes just before the Bruins embark on a key road trip to Ottawa, Florida, and Tampa Bay, it’s also is a critical game for them.

Buffalo has lost seven straight, but it might be due for a win after going all the way to the shootout in two of its last three contests, including Monday’s game against Washington.

“It was a really good effort. Skills competition at the end. I’m very pleased with the way we played,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said, per the team’s Twitter feed, after the 4-3 shootout loss. He added, “These guys gave us what they have to give, and that’s all you can ask for.”

His players seemed similarly upbeat following Monday’s contest.

Buffalo will be going for its first win against Boston since Feb. 26, 2014. The silver lining for the Sabres is that they have taken the Bruins to overtime in their last two meetings.

They have the potential to be a thorn in Boston’s sides tonight and make the Bruins’ final weeks of the regular season a little more stressful in the process.

Holtby blanks Bruins, Capitals grab East’s top wild card spot

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Goaltending was a big reason why the Boston Bruins came into Sunday on a hot streak, but Braden Holtby showed that the Washington Capitals boast an outstanding netminder, too.

Holtby stopped all 32 Bruins shots as Washington won 2-0 tonight, securing the top wild card spot for the Capitals. They now have a two-point lead over Boston for that position and enjoy a healthy margin against the East’s bubble teams.

Holtby is impressing if you look at things from a short-term perspective:

… Yet he’s had a great season overall, too, as he now has eight shutouts and 33 wins in 2014-15.

Now, let’s not forget that Tuukka Rask was strong in his own right, as you can see most obviously from this sprawling stop:

Holtby obviously stole the show, though, as Washington’s two goals were clearly enough for the win. (Nicklas Backstrom collected two assists, setting a new Capitals franchise record for that stat.)

It wasn’t a perfect game in every way for the Capitals, as Alex Ovechkin experienced this, um, uncomfortable moment:

Still, he seems OK, and winning a big game probably helps to soothe that pain a bit.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals

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All of a sudden, the Boston Bruins aren’t just fighting for a playoff spot … they’re now fighting for a better playoff spot.

The Washington Capitals get to decide if Boston will advance on their top wild card spot, as the two battle it out on Sunday night. You can catch the action on NBCSN or stream it via NBC Live Sports Extra:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Read more about this matchup in this in-depth preview.

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins, Capitals will break Wild Card tie tonight

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Washington Capitals host the Boston Bruins at the Verizon Center at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

It wasn’t too long ago that Boston’s playoff position looked vulnerable, but after five straight victories, the Bruins have not only managed to stay six points ahead of the similarly streaking Florida Panthers, but also catch up to the Washington Capitals in the fight for the first Wild Card spot.

“I think we believe in ourselves right now,” said Patrice Bergeron, per the team’s website. “Since the trade deadline, I think it put a lot of guys at ease, kind of realizing that this is our team. The management — from up to Peter [Chiarelli] to Cam [Neely] and everyone down — they all believe in us, and we have to show them that we can do it.

“It’s about doing it every night. Right now, we all need to be leaders and step up and play big.”

Both Washington and Boston have 82 points this season and are equal when it comes to regulation plus overtime wins (33), but the Bruins have a slim edge right now given that they’ve played in one less game. Regardless, the occupant of the first Wild Card seed Monday morning will be the winner of this contest.

In addition to the obvious positioning advantage that would come with a victory tonight, Washington could also use the confidence boost that comes with winning. It has lost three of its last four games and attracted the ire of Capitals coach Barry Trotz.

“Right now we have too many passengers,” Trotz told CSN Washington. “You can’t carry a guy on your back. This league is way too good. If there’s a guy next to you not pulling his weight you can’t carry him. You either get rid of him or give him a shake and tell him to get on the bus and start traveling in the right direction. That’s probably why [the players] had a closed-door meeting, because I told them to fix it.”

The Capitals realize their game has slipped lately and they’re position has been compromised as a result. The silver lining for them is that their fate is still in their hands.

Bruins pass Capitals with fifth straight win

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Milan Lucic scored his 15th of the season and Tuukka Rask made 30 saves as the Boston Bruins blanked the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Saturday afternoon.

Zdeno Chara added an empty-netter in the final minute.

With the win, Boston has now won five straight and seven of its last nine and moves past the Washington Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have a game in hand on the Caps.

Boston’s win coupled with Detroit’s loss in Philly leaves the Bruins just three points back of the Wings in the Atlantic Division. Detroit has one game in hand.

Pittsburgh played much of the game without both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

Crosby was a late scratch from the lineup due to illness and replaced by Craig Adams following the pre-game skate.

Malkin took a hit from Chris Kelly on his first shift of the game and was shaken up. He left the game briefly, but returned to finish the first period. He did not return to start the second.

Rask’s shutout was his third of the season and the 26th of his career.

Thomas Greiss made 28 saves in the loss.

With Saturday’s victory, Boston wins the season series taking two of three from Pittsburgh. The Penguins won the first meeting 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 24. The Bruins edged the Pens with a 3-2 overtime win on Jan. 7.