Dean Kukan

Pastrnak, Bruins take 3-2 series lead after wild third period

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David Pastrnak has taken a lot of heat in these playoffs.

While Pastrnak had nine points in 11 games coming into Game 5 on Saturday night in Boston, he also suffered through two streaks without a goal (one for three games, the other for four) during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and those struggles drew plenty of attention.

The hot Pastrnak takes will further be cooled after a two-goal performance, including the timeliest of timely goals to break a tie game late in the third period, providing the sauce needed to push the Bruins past the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3 to take a 3-2 series lead.

Boston’s best had been anything but prior to Game 4, with just a single point — a goal off Pastrnak’s skate. The result was a 2-1 series deficit. When your top three players — Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron — don’t score, games aren’t won.

That changed in Game 4 when the trio combined for three goals and five points in a 4-1 win to level the affair. On Saturday, the outpouring of offense continued with a further six points attributed to them.

Marchand set up Pastrnak twice in the game and scored the goal to make it 2-0 early in the third.

The narrative for this story initially read like a book of praise for Tuukka Rask with about 10 minutes left in the third period.

Not only had Rask stifled the Columbus Blue Jackets at every juncture, but a 10-1 start to the final frame on the shot clock also suggested that perhaps the Blue Jackets had started to run on empty.

Columbus appeared to punch themselves out in the second frame (they looked gassed throughout the first two periods, if we’re being honest). They found 15 shots but couldn’t find a way past Rask, who looked particularly on point on Columbus’ lone power-play attempt in the period.

But a sharp-angle shot from Seth Jones that squeaked over the goal line breathed some life into the Blue Jackets and ushered in three minutes of mayhem that would wildly change the game.

Pastrnak’s first of the game was the answer the Bruins were looking for right after a long break for a review. The goal came 43 seconds after Jones’ to steady the ship.

Or not.

Ryan Dzingel answered 51 seconds after that and Dean Kukan tied the game just under two minutes later as the Blue Jackets resurrected themselves and their chances in the game.

Pastrnak’s goal at 18:32 puts the Bruins on the right side of the odds. Teams that win Game 5 in a series level at 2-2 coming into go on to win said series roughly 80 percent of the time.

Boston will get their chance to finish off the Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on Monday at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have yet to face elimination in these playoffs but will have the cannon on their side in Game 6. They’ve shown tremendous resiliency, and they’ll have to find that resolve two more times if they want to book a date against the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins win wild Game 4, even series with Blue Jackets

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The Boston Bruins needed their best players to shine in Game 4 on Thursday night, and they did exactly that.

Because of that performance the Bruins were able to even their Round 2 series with the Columbus Blue Jackets at two games apiece thanks to a 4-1 win that was, at times, pretty chaotic.

Let’s take a quick look at everything that unfolded at Nationwide Arena.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

We need to start with the Bruins’ top line as it was finally able to get going after a quiet start to the series. The Bruins reunited the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak for this game and that trio combined for three of their four goals. Pastrnak got things started just 3:33 into the game to give the Bruins the lead, which was followed by Bergeron adding a power play goal just five minutes later to extend the lead. Bergeron would score another power play goal late in the third period to put the game away.

While the stars at the top were doing their job to jumpstart the offense, starting goalie Tuukka Rask was absolutely spectacular in net stopping 39 of the 40 shots he faced on the night.

That includes a Boone Jenner penalty shot just six minutes into the game that could have tied the score at one with the Bruins on the power play.

It would not be be the only shorthanded opportunity Rask would have to stop on the night as the Bruins gave up chances all night on the man-advantage for much of the night (at least five of them, almost all of which were by Jenner).

Had it not been for the play of Rask this game could have easily gone in a different direction, or at least been a lot closer on the scoreboard at the end.

The only goal he allowed was a controversial one that was the result of Artemi Panarin scoring after the puck hit the protective netting behind the Bruins goal, which was missed by all four on-ice officials.

Along with the emergence of the Bruins’ top line, a penalty shot, countless shorthanded chances, and a controversial goal, there was also another controversial hit in the series as Columbus’ Dean Kukan was given a two-minute minor for this hit to the head of Bruins forward David Backes.

Backes was down for a few moments and exited the game for a while before ultimately returning. It is a play the NHL’s Department of Player Safety will almost certainly look at, but given the standard that has been established this postseason it may not be enough to reach the level of supplemental discipline.

It was an eventful night in what has been a ridiculously close series through the first four games. Now it all comes down to which team can win two of the next three for a chance to go to the Eastern Conference Final.

Game 5 of Bruins-Blue Jackets is Saturday at 7:15 ET on NBC.

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.

McQuaid already out of Blue Jackets’ lineup just one week after trade

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The Columbus Blue Jackets pushed all their chips to the center of the table at the NHL trade deadline and went all in on this season by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kinkaid, and Adam McQuaid over a three-day stretch, exhausting almost their entire allotment of draft picks for 2019.

It was such a bold approach because the team was not even a lock to make the playoffs at the time of the trades and enters the week on the outside of the playoff picture after dropping back-to-back games to the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets over the weekend. It also puts a ton of pressure on the team to win this season because Duchene, Dzingel, Kinkaid, McQuaid, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky are all unrestricted free agents after this season.

There is a real chance many — if not all — of them could be gone after July 1. Given what they gave up at the deadline, the headlines they made, and the uncertainty about the roster after this season missing the playoffs would be … well … bad.

So far, the early returns have not produced the results the Blue Jackets were looking for as they have dropped three of their first four games since the deadline.

It also looks like one of those acquisitions is going to struggle to get a regular spot in the lineup.

McQuaid was a healthy scratch in Sunday’s loss to the Jets, having been replaced by Dean Kukan, and based on coach John Tortorella’s press conference on Monday it appears the same lineup will be used on Tuesday night when the team takes on the New Jersey Devils.

That means, again, no Adam McQuaid, just one week after the team traded a prospect and two draft picks for him.

“I have to make decisions on who I think is our best six, and right now [McQuaid] isn’t that,” Tortorella said on Monday. “I don’t know what he is; I know the character of this guy, that is a big reason why we got him, he is a high character guy. Little concerned about the speed of the game with him, so we went back to the other guys. [Kukan] had some good games prior to being taken out, in fact it was probably unfair that comes out, but because we make a deal I wanted to look at [McQuaid], and I feel [Kukan] should be in right now, so we will go with those six.”

In his first three games with the team McQuaid was a minus-four in just around 40 minutes of total ice time.

Of all the players Columbus acquired prior to the deadline McQuaid was always the one that seemed to be the most unnecessary. Obviously Tortorella loves the person and presence he can provide off the ice, but his style of play just doesn’t seem to fit with the way the Blue Jackets play on the back end or with the direction the NHL is moving. But, players get injured and if you are a team that has any hope of going on an extended playoff run you are probably going to have to use at least eight or nine different defenders. Plus, the Blue Jackets probably no doubt see McQuaid as some kind of an answer to Tom Wilson should they encounter the Washington Capitals again at some point. So here we are.

As for the Blue Jackets’ other main additions, Duchene has one goal and two assists in his first six games, while Dzingel has a pair of assists in four games.

PHT Power Rankings: The NHL’s best under-the-radar performances

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.

WATCH LIVE: 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA features Blue Jackets, Sabres

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NBCSN’s coverage of the the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA game in Clinton, N.Y. between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres begins at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online by clicking here. 

PROJECTED LINEUPS

SABRES
Jeff SkinnerJack EichelSam Reinhart
Alex NylanderPatrik Berglund – Andrew Oglevie
C.J. Smith – Casey MittelstadtKyle Okposo
Justin BaileyEvan Rodrigues – Danny O’Regan

Jake McCabeZach Bogosian
Rasmus DahlinCasey Nelson
Brendan Guhle – William Borgen

Goalies: Scott Wedgewood, Jonas Johansson

[WATCH LIVE – 7 P.M. – NBCSN]

BLUE JACKETS
Anthony DuclairAlexander Wennberg – Kevin Stenlund
Artemi Panarin – Liam Foudy – Jonathan Davidsson
Boone JennerBrandon DubinskyJosh Anderson
Lukas Sedlak – Sam Vigneault – Eric Robinson

Michael PrapavessisSeth Jones
Gabriel CarlssonAdam Clendening
Dean KukanDavid Savard

Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo, J.F. Berube

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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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.