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WATCH LIVE: Bruins take on Capitals

NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Washington has won 14 straight games against Boston. That represents four straight season sweeps (this game would make five), with the Bruins’ last win over the Capitals coming on March 29, 2014. Braden Holtby has been in net for 12 of the wins during the current streak, and is 16-2-0 in his regular season career vs. the B’s.

Without Alex Ovechkin (served 1-game suspension for skipping All-Star Game), the Capitals came up with a much-needed win on Friday, defeating the West-leading Flames 4-3 to snap their seven-game losing streak. It was their first win since beating Boston on Jan. 10.

On Thursday, the Bruins surrendered 1-0 and 2-1 leads before losing to the Flyers 3-2 in overtime. Boston has now lost both of its games since the All-Star break, three in a row, and five of its last six overall (1-2-3 record). Head coach Bruce Cassidy was critical of his defensive group, and his captain in particular, after the most recent defeat:

“Listen, he’s the captain of the hockey club. He won a Stanley Cup here by being a defensive stalwart, one of the best penalty killers in the league, so yes, he’s part of that group, and the biggest part of it. He’s a terrific leader. The next game, he [needs to] understand what makes us successful. We’ll have a conversation about it. But he is the leader back there. [Chara has] got to get Charlie [McAvoy] to buy in, got to get [Brandon] Carlo, he has, and that has to continue. Kevan Miller, I put him in that group too. They have to lead back there and understand what it takes to be successful right now for us. Right now for us [that] is team defense.”

This will be the 999th game of Patrice Bergeron’s career. Number 1,000 will come on Tuesday at home against the Islanders. At age 33, the four-time Selke Trophy winner is having the best offensive season of his career, averaging 1.26 points/game (44 points in 35 games). If Bergeron stays healthy (already missed 16 game so far), he could top his career high of 73 points, set in 2005-06 at age 20.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Boston Bruins at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Arena
When: Sunday, Feb. 3, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Peter Cehlarik – David KrejciJake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Trent Frederic – David Backes
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Dmitrij JaskinTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Andre BurakovskyChandler StephensonDevante Smith-Pelly

Michal KempnyJohn Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

John Forslund, Mike Milbury, and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Kathryn Tappen will host studio coverage alongside Eddie Olczyk and Keith Jones.

Bruins need to find secondary scoring in a hurry

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There’s no denying that the Boston Bruins have one of the best lines in hockey. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand have been lights out for years now. Whenever they’re on, they’re incredibly difficult to stop.

But whenever they lose a game, there seems to be a pattern. Either, the opponent was able to keep the Bruins first line in check, or Boston just didn’t get enough scoring from their other lines.

Last night’s overtime defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers was the Bruins’ third consecutive loss and their fourth in five games. If we take a look at the last three games in particular, it’s evident that they need someone on lines two through four to step up.

In the loss to the Flyers, it was Pastrnak who scored both of Boston’s goals. In Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Winnipeg, Bergeron scored twice and Pastrnak scored once. In the 3-2 defeat to the Rangers before their bye week, the Bruins got a goal from Marchand and Danton Heinen, which was a nice change or pace, but still not enough.

That means that their top three forwards have accounted for six of their seven goals during this three-game skid. No wonder the Bruins have been linked to Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin. They need someone else that’s capable of contributing offense on a regular basis.

When looking at their scoring leaders, it’s no surprise to see Pastrnak (61 points), Marchand (57 points) and Bergeron (44 points in 35 games) at the top list. Veteran David Krejci has a respectable 40 points, while defeseman Torey Krug has 34. After Krug, the next best scorer is Jake DeBrusk, who has 18 points (!!!) in 42 games. Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinan and David Backes all have 14 points or fewer. That’s a significant drop off.

Another big issue, is that the Bruins have started getting into the habit of squandering leads. They’ve scored the first goal in in each of their last six games, but they’ve gone just 1-3-2 during that stretch. They simply can’t allow that to happen, especially when you consider how tight the standings are in the Eastern Conference and in the Atlantic Division, in particular.

As of right now, they’re sitting in third place in the Atlantic, but the Canadiens are tied with them in points, with 61. On a positive note, the Bruins are just one point back of Toronto for second place.

There’s still time for them to get back on track, but they’ll likely have to make a significant move if they want to make a long run in the playoffs. Someone like Panarin, Wayne Simmonds or Mark Stone would be a perfect fit.

Of all the teams currently in a playoff spot, only the Islanders, Wild and Stars have scored fewer goals than Boston’s 148 (17th in the NHL).

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Seeking consistency, Bruins scratch struggling Backes

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David Backes’ time on ice with the Boston Bruins and his production has dwindled this season, and as head coach Bruce Cassidy seeks a better option next to David Krejci, the 34-year-old veteran will be in the press box for Wednesday’s game against the Flyers. (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Halfway through a five-year, $30M contract he signed in 2016, Backes’ production has been decreasing since his final seasons in St. Louis; and through some tough injuries, his game hasn’t been able to recover. This season he has four goals and 12 points through 38 games, and his average ice time (13:45) is the lowest its been since his rookie season (13:25) way back in 2006-07.

“You’ve got a couple options on how you react,” Backes said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “Either you cry and moan and go into a shell or your work your butt off and try to find your spot back in the lineup. The latter obviously has a lot more appealing outcomes than the former.”

Peter Cehlarik, who has 10 goals and 29 points in 37 AHL games this season, has been summoned from Providence and will play alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins’ other three lines have been performingly swimmingly, so Cassidy doesn’t want to mess with a good thing. Re-jiggering his second line with some new blood and a player deserving of a chance is what’s needed at the moment for full balance up front.

Backes, who hasn’t been a healthy scratch in 12 years, has never been very fleet of foot, something that was pointed out by Cassidy following Monday’s overtime defeat to the Montreal Canadiens.

“I just think the pace is fast for him right now,” Cassidy said. “He’s got to find what plays can he make and find his awareness around him. ‘What can I do to make a play, and when do I have to put it in an area because I don’t have time?’ I think that’s the challenge for him right now, especially with these teams that buzz around.”

An option could have been to drop Backes to the third line, but with Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari playing well, the forward will have to work toward getting an opportunity to be re-inserted into the lineup. But even then, can he adjust his game to deal with his lack of pace?

“That’s part of the adaptation to the new NHL,” Backes said. “The younger, faster, more speed emphasis type of league rather than the station-to-station, we’re going to tell you what we’re gonna go and we’re just going to do it harder than you and good luck stopping us, the way that maybe it was in years past or on other teams with maybe a little different methodology about going about it. … At 34 am I going to all of a sudden turn into Jake DeBrusk’s type speed? I think that’s a fallacy if you’re hoping for that.”

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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.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins host Canadiens on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday night’s matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This will be the 746th regular season game between the Canadiens and Bruins. Montreal has won 361 times to Boston’s 281, while there have been 103 ties. These two teams have played more than any other teams in the NHL.

Both teams enter Monday’s matchup playing well. The Bruins have won six of their last seven games, including a 3-2 win at Toronto on Saturday night. Trailing 2-1, Boston scored two straight goals near the end of the secnd period and held off the Maple Leafs in the third to secure the win. The Canadiens kicked off a run of three games in four days on Saturday night with a 3-0 win vs the Avalanche. Carey Price stopped 28 shots to earn his third shutout of the season. It was just the secnd time Colorado has been shut out all season (first time since Oct.).

One of the biggest reasons for the Bruins’ recent success has been the play of goalie Tuukka Rask, who has emerged as the clear top choice between the pipes. Rask is 5-0-0, with a 1.38 goals against average, .955 save percentage and a shutout in his last five starts. His next win will tie him with Tiny Thompson for most wins by a goalie in franchise history.

The Canadiens power play continued to struggle in the 3-0 win vs. the Avalanche. Montreal went 0-for-3 with the man advantage to bring their total to 1-for-20 in the last seven games. They rank last in the NHL in power play percentage, converting on just 12.5 percent of their chances. Head coach Claude Julien also switched up the power-play units hoping to find a solution for the team’s struggles.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins
Where: TD Garden
When: Monday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Canadiens-Bruins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

CANADIENS
Jonathan DrouinPhilip DanaultBrendan Gallagher
Artturi LehkonenMax DomiJoel Armia
Tomas TatarJesperi KotkaniemiPaul Byron
Kenny AgostinoMichael ChaputNicolas Deslauriers

Victor MeteShea Weber
Mike ReillyJeff Petry
Brett KulakJordie Benn

Starting goalie: Carey Price

BRUINS
Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronDavid Pastrnak
Jake DeBruskDavid KrejciDavid Backes
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner
Danton HeinenJakob Forsbacka KarlssonRyan Donato

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

John Forslund (play-by-play), AJ Mleczko (analyst) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from TD Garden in Boston, Mass.

The Buzzer: Blue Jackets mock Kuznetsov; A bloody good goal

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Three Stars

1. Tyler Bertuzzi

For the first time in his NHL career, Bertuzzi generated a hat trick, playing a role in a very frustrating night for Bruce Boudreau and the Wild.

Overall, Bertuzzi ended up with five shots on goal and a +3 rating in that win. Todd’s nephew now has 13 goals and 25 points in 45 games this season.

Consider this also an honorary spot for Dylan Larkin, who continued a quietly strong 2018-19 with three assists.

2. Nikita Kucherov

Things get funky after Bertuzzi, whose three points being three goals makes for an easy tiebreaker. The rest are judgment calls, really.

It doesn’t help that there’s a little club of one-goal, two-assists nights where both assists are primary helpers. That was the case with Kucherov, Sean Kuraly, and Jeff Carter.

Kucherov gets one of the nods because, honestly, we really need to step back and behold his amazing run whenever we can. And the same should be said for the absolutely ridiculous Lightning, who are now on an 18-1-1 run.

Kucherov’s now at 75 points in just 45 games. Goodness.

3. Sean Kuraly

From a guy on top of the hockey world to someone who might not make these lists very often, Kuraly also enjoyed an aforementioned one-goal, two-assist night.

Considering his recent efforts, it seems well-earned. Kuraly had been suffering through a four-game pointless streak, yet he fired a healthy 14 SOG during that drought. The Bruins would end up needing all three of his points, too, as they won 3-2 against the Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Again, there’s a strong case for Carter to be in the top three, too. Goalies also had some arguments, including Carey Price, who pitched a 28-save shutout against the Avalanche.

Highlights of the Night

Conor Garland has been quietly building up a nice season between the AHL and NHL, but Saturday might just boost him up to the level of semi-mainstream consciousness among hockey fans.

It’s not just that he scored two goals in Arizona’s win against Edmonton. It’s that the first one went off of his face, and then he came back and scored another one that had to be reviewed. Garland is now on a four-game goal streak (six goals).

This continues what’s been a tough couple of days for faces, even by the gritty standards of hockey players. Braden Holtby took a stick to the eye. Johnny Boychuk blocked a shot with his face. At least Garland got a goal for his efforts, then, eh?

Watch Garland’s two goals, stitches and all, in the video above this post’s headline.

In that same game, Connor McDavid scored a very business-as-usual goal, which of course means it was really impressive:

The magical ride isn’t over yet for Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, as he helped St. Louis suppress Dallas. This was a great sequence. Also, great call on the nickname/Twitter handle “Binn Nasty.”

Trash talk moment of the night

In response to Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s bird/eagle celebration, Artemi Panarin and the Blue Jackets laid it on pretty thick in mocking his cele after winning things 2-1 in OT.

Maybe these teams will get to hash things out in a playoff series? Kuznetsov got a pretty nice burn in that regard, via Ian Oland of Russian Machine Never Breaks:

“That’s fine, you know. It’s nice to get some people to think about me,” Kuznetsov said. “Same as like in April last series.”

Ouch. Also: that Panarin shot was nasty, though.

More on a tough night for the Capitals here, which also includes a breakout pass that ranks as an honorable mention for highlights of the night.

Factoids

  • Brent Burns played in his 1,000th game, collecting two points, and also being distinctly Brent Burns (read: weird).

Scores

NJD 3 – PHI 2
NYR 2 – NYI 1
TBL 5 – BUF 3
BOS 3 – TOR 2
MTL 3 – COL 0
CBJ 2 – WSH 1 (OT)
DET 5 – MIN 2
VGK 4 – CHI 3 (OT)
STL 3 – DAL 1
ARI 3 – EDM 2
SJS 4 – OTT 1
LAK 5 – PIT 2

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.