Everything comes up Bruins on Saturday

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Honestly, Zdeno Chara signing another team-friendly contract would have been enough to make Saturday great for the Boston Bruins, alone. But the good times didn’t stop there.

Nope, the Bruins carried those positive vibes to the ice, as they pummeled the Florida Panthers by a score of 7-3. In managing that lopsided win, the Bruins became the second team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A clinched spot and a big win to go with that Chara extension … that’s it, right? Nope, more fun stuff came when you zoomed into the specifics of the game.

For one thing, Chara celebrated his extended stay with the Bruins by scoring the 200th goal of his splendid NHL career, and it was a pretty nice one. (You can watch that milestone tally in the video above this post’s headline.)

Chara also had an assist in that win, so quite an all-around Saturday for “The Big Z.”

He wasn’t the only Bruins player to have a memorable evening, as Noel Acciari scored a goal and also threw punches at a gatling-gun-rhythm in quite the fight with MacKenzie Weegar:

*Infomercial voice* But wait, there’s more …

The Maple Leafs only managed a point against the struggling Rangers on Saturday, so now the Bruins hold a seven-point edge for the Atlantic’s second seed, and home-ice advantage in that looming first-round series.

While Toronto would be a tough opponent – warts and all – it must be tantalizing for the Bruins to picture what they might be capable of. After all, the B’s are starting to get healthier following a season of injury headaches, and they’re heating up considering their four-game winning streak.

They’re also an impressive 28-7-3 at home this season, so home ice could be pretty significant.

Yes, life was good for the Bruins on Saturday, and they aim to carry that over to most nights in April, and beyond.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panthers’ Barkov explodes for five assists, sets franchise record

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Aleksander Barkov was already having a remarkable season for the Florida Panthers prior to Friday night.

His five-assist effort against the Minnesota Wild just added another chapter to the tale he’ll be able to tell and another passage in the Panthers’ history book.

You see, five assists are the most any one Panther has ever recorded in a game. Barkov was magical, his hands in on five of Florida’s six goals in a 6-2 win, including four primary apples.

Barkov came into Friday with 70 points, eight back of his career-high. He’s now just three off 78-point season he had last year. His 29 goals this season were already one more than his previous career-high, and his 46 assists now are five shy of the 51 he has last season.

The Finn has scored some ridiculous goals this year, too.

The Panthers, nine points out of a playoff spot coming into the night, chased Devan Dubnyk after one period. Jonathan Huberdeau had four points, Evgeni Dadonov had three assists, and MacKenzie Weegar and Mike Matheson each had a brace.

Sam Montembeault, making his second NHL start, picked up his first NHL win after stopping 25 shots.

This weird thing also happened:


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

Habs’ Byron suspended three games for hit on Panthers’ Weegar

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Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron received a three-game suspension for charging MacKenzie Weegar of the Florida Panthers during Montreal’s 5-1 win on Tuesday.

The Department of Player Safety explains that Byron “launches up and into a forceful check” while making “significant contact” with Weegar’s head. The explanation video circles back to Byron’s skate leaving the ice, postulating that Byron “launched himself excessively upward” to make the hit.

Finally, the NHL notes Weegar’s injury, but also a lack of suspension history for the speedy Byron:

Byron tweeted a statement on the suspension, noting that he accepts responsibility for the hit, even though he had “no intention of causing injury.”

So, Byron will be unavailable for Friday’s game at Columbus, Saturday’s home game versus the Flyers, and a Wednesday, Jan. 23 contest versus the Coyotes. The Habs have the All-Star break after that, so Byron is eligible to return for a Feb. 2 home game against the Devils.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Panthers’ Weegar gets misconduct penalty after abuse of officials

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Here’s in a lesson in not swinging your stick around when there’s a linesman escorting you to the penalty box.

Florida Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar was on the receiving end of a 10-minute misconduct for abuse of an official after his frustrations boiled over against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Weegar was incensed that a penalty wasn’t called after he was boarded by Maple Leafs forward Tyler Ennis. Weegar was slow to get up and when he did, he began spamming cross-checks to anyone within striking distance, including several to Ennis, one of which appeared to catch Ennis in the neck.

As he was getting taken to the box on a four-minute double minor for the cross-checking, Weegar slammed his stick against the glass near the penalty box. The stick appeared to catch the linesman Jonny Murray in the helmet.

The whole ordeal can be seen here:

Weegar got a stern talking to by referee Chris Rooney before he was sent to the locker room to serve out his misconduct.

Toronto, who were down 2-0 at that point, was unable to score on the extended power play.


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

Brendan Lemieux ejected for hit on Vincent Trocheck

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(UPDATE: Lemieux will have a hearing on Monday afternoon.)

The Winnipeg Jets and Florida Panthers wrapped up their two games in Finland (aka The Global Series) with tensions really starting to flare.

After the Jets won on the strength of Patrik Laine‘s hat trick on Thursday, the Panthers rallied for a 4-2 win on Friday, with a violent span possibly serving as the turning point. Brendan Lemieux received a match penalty for an ugly hit on Vincent Trocheck, which prompted a Lemieux – MacKenzie Weegar fight.

(You can watch that exchange in the video above this post’s headline.)

The score was 2-2 at the time of Lemieux’s hit. Despite Weegar receiving an instigator penalty that abbreviated Florida’s power-play opportunity, the Panthers still scored on the ensuing man advantage. Keith Yandle‘s tally ended up standing as the game-winning goal, ensuring that the Panthers would leave Finland with two standings points.

Lemieux also received a high-sticking penalty in Friday’s game, which opened the door for a Mike Hoffman power-play goal. That’s a pretty brutal bit of work for Claude Lemieux’s son, who collected those two costly infractions despite logging just 4:41 in ice time.

TSN’s Frank Seravalli points out that Lemieux’s match penalty will automatically get a look from the NHL:

This marked just the 18th NHL game of Lemieux’s career, as the 22-year-old has largely followed in his father’s footsteps in the AHL. Despite some considerable draft pedigree (31st pick of the 2014 NHL Draft), moments like these won’t help the young forward’s chances of consistently cracking a loaded Jets lineup.

Even ignoring his genes, this outcome probably shouldn’t be too shocking:

So, does he deserve to be suspended? If so, for how long? Either way, Lemieux didn’t endear himself to his opponents or his own team with that hit, and the penalty that resulted.

In other news, Roberto Luongo returned to the Panthers’ lineup a little bit earlier than expected, making 32 out of 34 saves for an impressive victory. He had no chance on Patrik Laine’s fourth goal in two games in Finland, but was otherwise very sharp.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.