Capitals defeat Bruins to regain top spot in NHL standings

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BOSTON (AP) Washington’s lone losing streak of the season didn’t last long.

Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist and the Capitals took over the top record in the NHL with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.

Washington scored the first two goals and Braden Holtby stopped a dozen shots in the third period as the Bruins attempted to rally.

“We came out better right away,” said Marcus Johansson, whose goal in the third period was the difference. “When we get the lead and play the way we can then I think we are really really tough to beat and get something going on.”

The Capitals were coming off a 5-4 shootout loss in Columbus on Saturday, two nights after a 4-2 loss at Carolina. It was the first time the Capitals lost back-to-back games this season, although they still got a point in the shootout loss.

“We talk about the loss in the second game,” Kuznetsov said. “No way we are going to lose today.”

Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Capitals, who entered the game trailing Dallas by a point for the NHL lead. The Stars’ 6-2 loss to the Rangers in New York on Tuesday gave Washington the opportunity to climb on top and the Capitals took advantage despite a quiet night from captain Alex Ovechkin.

Ovechkin had just two shots and remained at 496 career goals. Ovechkin’s next milestone will come soon enough for the Capitals, who at 29-7-3 continued their roll through the regular season with their fourth straight win over Boston.

“It’s a good spot to be because they challenge you every night,” said Holtby, who finished with 25 saves. “I mean we have been in the position where we have played those top teams during the regular season and you always get up a little bit more for it because you want to test yourself and I think that’s good for us.”

Patrice Bergeron had a goal and assist and Loui Eriksson also scored for Boston.

Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins, who remained one win shy of their 3,000th regular-season victory in franchise history. Boston has lost two straight and five of six.

“We have to find ways to generate more goals and more chances. I thought it was a much better effort but still not good enough,” Bergeron said. “The standings are way too tight to let games like that slip by.”

Boston outshot Washington 13-6 in the third period and pulled Rask at the end for an extra skater, but Bergeron’s goal in the third was the only shot to get past Holtby in the period.

“It was a weird game,” Rask said. “It looked like there were some moments where we had a lot of emotion but then at times it was kind of just not a whole lot going on out there.”

Kuznetsov assisted when Burakovsky scored with 4:59 left in the first period to put Washington up 1-0. with an assist from Kuznetsov.

Kuznetsov gave Washington a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal with 7:20 left in the second.

Bergeron and Brett Connolly assisted when Eriksson scored Boston’s first goal and cut Washington’s lead to 2-1 with 4:34 left in the second period.

Bergeron’s shot with 8:08 remaining deflected off the stick of Justin Williams and beat Holtby to pull Boston within 3-2.

The Capitals had taken a 3-1 lead 1:11 earlier in the third period when Johansson poked in a rebound off a slap shot by Dmitry Orlov.

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid was injured when he was checked headfirst into the glass by Zach Sill early in the second period. McQuaid was facing the boards when Sill arrived and the hit drove McQuaid’s forehead into the glass. McQuaid stayed down for several minutes and was helped to the locker room.

McQuaid did not return and Boston coach Claude Juliene said didn’t have an update on his condition.

Washington coach Barry Trotz said the hit may have looked bad, but it appeared to be clean.

“That’s just a hockey play. Unfortunately McQuaid got hurt,” Trotz said. “But that’s 100 percent a hockey play and that was absolutely the right call.”

NOTES: Boston fans booed when there was no penalty on Sill after the hit on McQuaid. … Boston LW Brad Marchand served the third of his three-game suspension for a hit last week against Ottawa. … Holtby went 9-0-1 in December.

Bruins assign Pastrnak to AHL

New Jersey Devils v Boston Bruins
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David Pastrnak has been assigned to the AHL’s Providence Bruins after representing the Czech Republic in the World Juniors.

Pastrnak had a goal and three assists in four games for the Czechs. The 19-year-old forward did suffer a finger injury in the tournament, but it was not believed to be a “serious thing.”

Many expected Pastrnak to come back from Finland and immediately suit up for the NHL’s Bruins. In fact, that was the original plan. Boston is currently without forwards David Krejci (injured) and Brad Marchand (suspended).

But perhaps Pastrnak is not completely healthy. Or, perhaps the club wants him to play some games in the minors first.

Boston hosts the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Providence doesn’t play until Friday versus Bridgeport.

Related: Joonas Kemppainen a “possibility” versus Caps

Disappointed Bruins ‘played one of our worst games at the worst time’

during the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
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FOXBOROUGH — For whatever reason, the Boston Bruins came out flat on one of the biggest stages in hockey.

Claude Julien couldn’t say why, exactly. The Bruins’ head coach didn’t want to use the suspension of Brad Marchand or the absence of injured center David Krejci as an excuse.

Sometimes, a team just doesn’t have it. And the Bruins definitely didn’t Friday, despite the energy they might have gained from almost 70,000 fans in the stands at Gillette Stadium. The B’s deservedly lost the Winter Classic, 5-1, to their rivals from Montreal.

“I think we just had a tough night, “Julien said. “The unfortunate part is that I think we played one of our worst games at the worst time.  I think it just seemed like it was one of those nights we couldn’t get anything going the first period. They were all over us. And it just didn’t matter what we tried to do here we just couldn’t get it going.”

The Bruins were outshot, 14-3, in the first period. They only gave up one goal, but their opponents were emboldened.

“I think that first period was one of our best periods of hockey this year,” said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was equally flummoxed when asked why his team didn’t seem mentally prepared from the outset.

“I don’t know. Tough to say,” Rask said. “But when things go wrong you have to stick with the game plan and play your system and we didn’t do that. So then it just snowballs and it becomes 5-1.”

The Bruins have now lost four of their last five. They host one of the NHL’s best teams, the Washington Capitals, on Tuesday. Then they have to hit the road for five games in eight days.

“It’s disappointing tonight on a big stage like the Winter Classic to not show up like that,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “But at the same time, you have to put it behind you and move forward. We’re playing some big teams coming up and it’s huge points for us.”

“Things aren’t going to get any easier right now,” added Julien. “I don’t know if we anticipate having anybody back for the next game yet or not. So we have to move on with what we have.”

Gallagher shines as Habs thump Bruins at ’16 Winter Classic

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FOXBOROUGH — During the lead-up to the Winter Classic, P.K. Subban said the game would be a “perfect fit” for Brendan Gallagher‘s return to the Canadiens lineup.

Turns out he was right.

Gallagher, who’d missed the previous 17 games with a broken hand, was a driving force in his first game back in action, scoring a goal while setting up another to give the Habs a 5-1 win over the Bruins at Gillette Stadium.

Paul Byron netted twice for Montreal, who got January off to a good start following a 3-11-0 month of December. Single markers went to Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais — who, at 74 seconds, scored one of the fastest opening goals in Wither Classic history.

And then there was Gallagher, the game’s first star.

Yesterday, Subban told reporters that, because outdoor games often don’t have the best ice and tend to be chippy, Friday’s contest would be “right up [Gallagher’s] alley.”

The diminutive forward, out since Nov. 22, made good on his teammate’s prediction.

Gallagher quickly re-established chemistry on Montreal’s top line with Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec — combined, the trio finished with six points, seven shots on goal and a plus-five rating.

In terms of contrasting narratives, Montreal getting Gallagher back was a foil to Boston’s story on Friday — without top scorer David Krejci (upper-body injury) and leading goalscorer Brad Marchand (suspended), the B’s really struggled to generate offense.

Out-shot 14-3 in the first period, Boston didn’t beat Mike Condon until 3:56 of the third period, when Matt Beleskey tipped home an Adam McQuaid point shot.

The top duo of Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson failed to make much happen despite a rotation of different forwards on their line, and Boston’s usually dangerous power play failed to convert on any of its chances.

In goal, both Condon (27 saves on 28 shots) and Tuukka Rask played well, and though Rask’s numbers (25 saves on 30 shots, .833 save percentage) don’t necessarily show it, the Finnish netminder was the main reason Boston only went into the first intermission down 1-0.

Looking ahead, Montreal will be buoyed by the win and the offensive breakout. The club had scored just one goal in four of its previous five games, and has to be thrilled the top line is back together and clicking.

For Boston, this disappointing result is hardly the way it wanted to start the year. What’s more, the B’s have a tough schedule ahead — a home date against Eastern Conference-leading Washington, followed by a lengthy five-game road trip.

Notes: The attendance was 67,426… The two teams combined for 58 minutes in what was a chippy affair…Habs forward Dale Weise took this Kevan Miller cross-check early in the second period, and didn’t return:

WATCH LIVE: 2016 Winter Classic, Bruins-Habs from Gillette Stadium

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31:  A Winter Classic puck is photographed perched on the dasher boards during the Montreal Canadiens practice at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Happy New Year! Hope 2016 has been good thus far — and, if it hasn’t, hopefully things will improve by watching the Winter Classic between Boston and Montreal today, live from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

You can catch the game on TV (NBC, 1 p.m. ET), or watch online using NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH ONLINE

Some relevant linkage for today’s affair:

With Gallagher’s return, Habs hope Winter Classic gets ‘dirty’

‘He’s an unbelievable teammate’ — B’s back Marchand after fourth suspension in four years

Looks like ideal conditions for the Winter Classic