BOSTON, MA - MARCH 06: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins faces off against Marcus Johansson #90 of the Washington Capitals during the game at TD Garden on March 6, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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NHL on NBCSN Doubleheader: Bruins vs. Capitals; Avalanche vs. Kings

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

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 08: Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins works the bench against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 8, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Bruins defeated the Devils 4-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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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.”

Phil Kessel, David Backes involved in Penguins – Bruins violence

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15:  Cam Fowler #3 of the United States celebrates with teammates James van Riemsdyk #21, Phil Kessel #81 and David Backes #42 of the United States after scoring a goal against Sergei Bobrovski #72 of Russia in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day eight of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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During these polarized political times, many look to role models for inspiration to get along. That, uh … probably wouldn’t work out so well if you were trying to follow the lead of Phil Kessel and David Backes on Thursday.

OK, they probably didn’t get into a scuffle because of America – even Kessel needling the U.S. during the World Cup of Hockey, though there’s debate in that regard – but admit it; it’s fun to frame it that way.

Regardless, Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Pittsburgh Penguins game has been pretty dramatic, with Pittsburgh taking a 2-0 lead and then Boston charging back to go up 3-2 (at least temporarily).

With all apologies to the amusing lack of defense on Kessel’s goal, the violence brewing between the teams takes the cake, though.

You don’t get to see big names like Backes and Kessel go at it very often, even if this doesn’t really qualify as “fighting.”

So far, video isn’t available of their scuffle/roughing/etc., but there are GIFs. And they’re pretty entertaining.

It sure looks like Kessel started it, or at least was caught retaliating for something:

That GIF captured some of the violence, but here’s this piece of it, anyway:

As a reminder, Kessel sent out this sardonic tweet as the United States floundered at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey:

Sheesh, you’d think that Backes and Kessel could at least find common ground over dogs being cool, but apparently not.

The second period also ended with a fight between Colin Miller and Scott Wilson, with Wilson receiving misconduct and instigator penalties, so it’s been pretty heated between these two teams.

Again, video will be added when available. Here’s a clip of Miller vs. Wilson, at least:

Mason silences Rangers, Flyers move ahead of Bruins for last wild card spot

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If Steve Mason puts together more nights like these, the Philadelphia Flyers might not need to worry that much about securing a wild card spot.

Mason’s 34-save shutout powered Philly’s 2-0 win against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, pushing the Flyers ahead of the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot thanks to games in hand:

Flyers – 54 points in 49 games
Bruins – 54 points in 51 games

(The Florida Panthers lead the rest of the bubble with 50 points, while everyone else has 49. See the full standings here.)

The Rangers remain well above the fray in the first wild card spot with 63 points in 49 games, yet Wednesday’s loss had to be frustrating.

The game remained scoreless through two periods even as the Rangers managed a resounding 27-16 shot advantage. Philly took the third with the game’s only two goals and a slight 10-7 shot edge, however.

Wayne Simmmonds’ 20th goal was very, well, Wayne Simmonds. It stood as the game-winner:

It would probably be hasty to put too much of this loss on Henrik Lundqvist, though it likely slows at least some of his recent momentum … and there was no doubt which goalie was the star of this one.

When asked by Pierre McGuire if he felt like there was a specific moment when he felt “in the zone,” Mason said it actually started with his win against the Islanders a few days ago, when he stopped 36 out of 38 shots.

As up-and-down as this season has been for Mason and the Flyers, you may recall how impressive both the goalie and team looked during their 10-game winning streak.

Perhaps this is the beginning of another big push?

Hogging the puck paid off this time around for Bruins against Red Wings

ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 01:  Brad Marchand #63 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal with David Pastrnak #88 to take a 1-0 lead over the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center on December 1, 2014 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Boston Bruins have struggled during much of the 2016-17 season, something that’s been extra-frustrating since they’ve often excelled in areas friendly to “fancy stats.”

With that in mind, Bruins fans were probably quite frustrated at times on Tuesday.

Boston generated a 21-7 shot advantage on the Detroit Red Wings in the first period, yet only enjoyed a 2-1 lead. They out-shot Detroit 47-24 in regulation but were still forced to overtime at 3-3.

Then again, maybe it was for the best, as David Pastrnak scored his 20th goal of the 2016-17 season … to end a 17-game streak without a goal.

Much like the Bruins’ own four-game losing streak, just looking at one thing (wins for Boston, goals alone for Pastrnak) ignores some of the good stuff. Pastrnak had been getting assists here and there, while the Bruins were, again, firing a lot of shots on goal, usually more than their opponents.

It finally came together tonight, though not in the easiest way considering their need to win it beyond regulation.

We can only guess at how much this win eases the pressure on Claude Julien and increases the Bruins’ playoff chances, but it’s better than dropping another frustrating loss, particularly not all that far removed from a Red Wings loss that likely frustrated scores of B’s devotees.

And hey, there was also pizza as a reward.