Power play wakes up Bruins’ top line in Game 3 rout

ST. LOUIS — It was no surprise that the Boston Bruins’ depth continued to step up in the opening two games of the Stanley Cup Final. It was, however, surprising to see their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak struggle for a combined two points after 18 shots. 

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was firm in his belief that his No. 1 line would deliver in Game 3, and they did, with help from a perfect power play that went four-for-four during their 7-2 win over the St. Louis Blues. Bergeron scored the game’s opening goal and assisted on Pastrnak’s power play marker 41 seconds into the second period. Marchand would get the primary assist Torey Krug’s goal that made it 5-1.

“I think we were taking what’s there,” said Bergeron afterward. “I think maybe earlier we were forcing plays a little too much and tonight we put the puck on net, and when you do that good things happen.”

Cassidy wanted his power play units to shoot more after a combined 14 shots on 10 opportunities. Well, in Game 3 they didn’t really need to fire many pucks on Jordan Binnington and Jake Allen in those situations. The Bruins only needed four shots for their four extra man goals.

The veteran savvy and experience that makes up the roster, especially the top line, ensured that their struggle to get going wouldn’t hamper the process.

“The big thing is just we’ve been through so much together this year that we just rely on one another in uncomfortable situations,” said Marchand. “We rely on uncomfortable situations within our group and our leadership group. When we get through it, we get through it together.”

Bergeron’s goal opened that scoring at 10:47 of the first period was the result of a set play the Bruins have used during the season. Cassidy spoke on Friday about wanting to make an adjustment to the power play set up after seeing how tight the Blues were playing Bergeron in the bumper spot. Instead of trying to get him a pass in the slot from the half wall, Bergeron went to the net and deflected Torey Krug’s shot right off the face off.

“The PK, we have to be sharper,” said Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly. “I have to be better in the circle taking those face-offs to not give them any easier opportunities. It wasn’t good. We know we have to respond and be a lot better in that area.”

The power play goals from Krug and Pastrnak were each executed with a little help from the Blues’ penalty kill. The four-man unit concentrated on Marchand and Jake DeBrusk on the wall, completely forgetting about No. 88 right in front of Binnington. Twelve minutes later, Krug had time and space to rip a wrist shot off after O’Reilly and Alexander Steen double-teamed Marchand as he was attempting to control the puck at the blue line.

A power play that was two-for-10 entering Game 3 will get a boost from a perfect performance Saturday night. The top line trio played well at even strength, too, which could have benefited their success on the power play.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“I think in terms of confidence, they know they have the ability to score and generate offense,” Cassidy said. “The first two games, very small sample size, not going offensively. And one of the ways you get going offensively is to finish your chances and get going on the power play. We talked about that. 

“Most skilled guys, if they feel the puck on the power play, things start to happen, it bleeds into five-on-five, although I thought they started off well five-on-five.”

As the Bruins eye a 3-1 series lead in Monday night’s Game 4, the contributions from the top line early in the game provided a spark that set up what would be a blow out. That’s something they hope keeps up as the series advances.

“That was big to get us going right away,” said Marcus Johansson. “I think it was good for them, too. They’ve led us all playoffs. They’re such good leaders off the ice and on the ice. It’s just fun to see them cash one in and get us going.”

Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Monday (stream here).

MORE BLUES-BRUINS GAME 3:
Bruins blast Blues, take 2-1 lead in Stanley Cup Final
Blues special teams continue to be sour note 
Berube keeping the faith in Binnington after rough Game 3

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Looking back at the Blackhawks’ Scott Foster game

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take an occasional look back at some notable “this day in hockey history” moments. Today, Scott Foster gets to play a game for the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Before there was David Ayres with the Carolina Hurricanes, there was Scott Foster with the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was two years ago Sunday that Foster, an accountant by day, was forced into action as the emergency goalie against the Winnipeg Jets.

He stopped all seven shots he faced in 14 minutes of ice-time to help the Blackhawks hold on for a 6-2 win. You can see the highlights of his performance in the video above.

At the time of Foster’s appearance the entire thing was pretty unheard of because the NHL hadn’t really seen an appearance like this — a non-professional player forced into a game — in the modern era.

It all happened because of a series of goaltending injuries that left the Blackhawks shorthanded at the position. Chicago signed Foster to an amateur tryout contract the night before the game due to injuries to Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg. He was supposed to serve as the backup to rookie Collin Delia as he made his NHL debut. Everything was going as planned until Delia was also injured early in the the third period, forcing Foster into the game.

His performance earned him No. 1 star honors for the game.

Because the Blackhawks were already comfortably ahead when he entered the game he did not get credit for the win. It was probably the biggest highlight of the season for the Blackhawks as they missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

At the time Foster’s appearance and performance was mostly celebrated and treated as the feel-good story that it was.

But when Ayres had to enter a game for the Hurricanes this season — and ended up being the winning goalie against the Toronto Maple Leafs — there was a very vocal minority that thought it was an embarrassment for the league and that, maybe, the emergency goalie protocol needed to be changed. It was eventually decided that no change needed to be made. Even with two instances in the past couple of years it is still a very rare occurrence that needs a very specific set of circumstances to actually happen.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Olympic hockey on NBC: 2018 women’s gold medal game

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with the unforgettable Olympic women’s gold medal game in 2018.

NBC will present the women’s gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics between Team USA and Canada, won by the Americans in a 3-2 shootout in PyeongChang. With the victory, the women’s ice hockey team claimed its second ever Olympic gold medal and ended the Canadians streak of four straight gold medals.

Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire called the gold medal game in PyeongChang.

You can catch a replay of the 2018 women’s Olympics gold medal game Sunday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Game 7, Round 1, 2013 playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.