Blue Jackets do themselves no favors after getting hammered by Bruins

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You know it’s not going to be your night when you get scored on early on a goal that had to bounce perfectly past Sergei Bobrovsky and into the back of the net.

And one of the flukier goals you’ll see in hockey seemed to set the tone for an ugly night at the office for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who came into the game with the chance to secure their third straight ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Instead, they’ll have to keep sweating a tight playoff race following a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on NBCSN on Tuesday.

Indeed, the Blue Jackets will keep their playoff spot tonight, just barely. With the Carolina Hurricanes winning 4-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the former leapfrogged the Blue Jackets into the first wild-card spot. And with the Montreal Canadiens beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2, both they and Columbus are tied on 94 points, with the Blue Jackets holding the tiebreak at this point.

The good news for Columbus, who end the season against the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, is that they control their own destiny still. But it just goes to show that a five-game winning streak can mean very little down the stretch. One bump in the road can undo all that hard work.

It also means that Columbus might have played their final game at home this season, with their remaining two regular-season games coming on the road.

The Bruins ended a two-game skid, and locked up their second seeding in the Atlantic Division after picking up two crucial points (and with help from the Hurricanes, whose win meant Toronto couldn’t catch them any longer).

Boston will now have home-ice advantage in their Round 1 series with the Maple Leafs.

Brad Marchand has had the best season of his career and put an exclamation point on that after his two-point night helped him hit the 100-point milestone for the first time in his career.

Marchand scored his 36th of the season to make it 3-0 and then assisted on David Pastrnak‘s strike that made it 5-0 in the third period. You could see what it meant to his teammates and himself.

Bob was pulled after allowing four goals on 23 shots. Joonas Korpisalo wasn’t any better in relief, allowing two goals on five shots himself.

Columbus mounted a bit of a comeback bid, scoring twice in about 3:30, goals that each came on the power play, including Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s goal that extended his goal-scoring streak to six games. The problem was, five-on-five, the Bruins were simply better and responded just 1:14 after Columbus made it 5-2 with Karson Kuhlman’s third to make it 6-2.

Boston sat on their lead in the third for the most part, getting outshot 17-4 in the frame.


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

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins visit Red Wings

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday night’s matchup between the Boston Bruins at the Detroit Red Wings. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Boston Bruins can take a big step in locking up home ice advantage in the first round with a win against the Detroit Red Wings on Star Sunday on NBCSN.

The Bruins need three points to lock up the second seed in the Atlantic Division and could have that done with a win in Detroit followed by a point against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday — and that’s if Toronto doesn’t lose a game along the way, which would expedite the process.

“We want to finish second [in the Atlantic],” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s our ultimate goal. But we also want to be healthy.

“We’re here to win games until we get locked in. What’s in front of us is second place. We’d like to get there.”

The Bruins are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, snapping a 12-game winning streak at TD Garden, and are now on the road for three games before returning home next Saturday to close out the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The big thing for the Bruins heading into the postseason is that they’re getting healthy.

David Pastrnak is back. Torey Krug is back. Jake DeBrusk is healthy. Matt Grzelcyk returned on Saturday. And Kevan Miller could return on Sunday.

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

Detroit’s season went how you might expect for a team rebuilding. They’ll miss the playoffs for the third straight season, something they haven’t done in 35 years when they missed five straight seasons between 1979 and 1983.

That said, Detroit is finishing the season on a strong note having won four straight heading into Sunday.

“I think everyone right now is just buying in and we’re competing hard, playing the right way,” Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi said. “Playing simple. And sometimes, simple hockey wins.”

Bertuzzi has been a stud as of late, with seven points over his past three goals. He’s one goal shy of his first 20-goal campaign.

Dylan Larkin reached the 30-goal mark on Thursday, and Andreas Athanasiou joined him on Friday. Larkin comes into the game riding a three-game goal-scoring streak.

“I think we’re playing hard. We’re not giving up on the season, even though it seems like,” forward Dylan Larkin said. “I guess you could look at it as meaningless hockey and meaningless games here down the stretch.”

Brendan Burke (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Keith Jones and Anson Carter.


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

Lightning clinch Presidents’ Trophy for first time in franchise history

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No was ever going to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was just the mathematics that needed to be satisfied before they could be handed their first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.

And with nine games remaining — a good three weeks — left in the regular season, the Lightning became just the second team since the trophy began being awarded in 1985-86 to do it as quickly as they did in a 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. The 73 games it took the Lightning has only been bested by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, who clinched the trophy in 71.

It should be noted that no team has won the Presidents’ Trophy and gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks. Tampa’s biggest task still lays ahead of them as they look to exorcise their playoff demons.

There are still 18 points up for grabs, too, meaning that the Lightning, who are on 116 points after winning their fifth straight on Monday, can theoretically get to 134, which would set a new NHL record for most in a season (the Montreal Canadiens posted 132 in 1976-77). And before we write that off, realize that this Lightning team is something special and winning nine straight isn’t out of the realm of possibility. They could go 8-0-1 and still end with 133 points.

Furthermore, they’re six wins back of those 1995-96 Red Wings for most wins in a season with 62.

Tampa has matched or set all sorts of records this season, and their players have, too.

A week after Vincent Lecavalier’s points record was taken from him by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos notched goal No. 384 in Monday’s win to pass Lecavalier for most in Lightning history.


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

NHL on NBCSN: Bruins looking to push point streak to 20 vs. Penguins

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

The Boston Bruins are on an incredible run at the moment.

Fifteen wins in their past 17 games, including a six-game winning streak, and they’ve earned at least a point in 19 straight with a 15-0-4 record. They haven’t lost a game in regulation in nearly two months (Jan. 19), and the whole thing isn’t even all that new to Boston, who went 18 games last year without a loss in regulation. While no one is catching the Tampa Bay Lightning for the Presidents’ Trophy, the Bruins’ 93 points are good for second place in the NHL.

Boston is chasing history, with the 1940-41 Bruins’ 23 straight games with a point in the crosshairs.

Star Sunday will feature Brad Marchand for the Bruins, who is on pace for a career-year. He has already amassed 81 points (28 goals, 53 assists) and is four points shy of the career-best mark he’s set in each of the past two seasons. Marchand is on a heater at the moment, too, with four goals and six assists in a six-game point streak. He’s been a force during Boston’s 19-game point streak with 28 points during that time.

Boston beat Ottawa 3-2 on Saturday.

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

Pittsburgh, too, played Saturday and enters Sunday’s game licking its wounds after a 4-1 defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

A win Sunday would put the Penguins into third place in the Metropolitan Division, usurping the Carolina Hurricanes and, more importantly, creating some space from the two wild-card spots in the East.

The Pens will have some recent history on their side heading into this one having not lost to the Bruins at PPG Paints Arena since 2015. They scored at least four goals in each of those wins. Pittsburgh has won three of their past four games and has points in 10 of their past 13.

Evgeni Malkin will be featured on Star Sunday for the Penguins. He enters the game two points shy of the 1,000-point club and would become the 88th player — and just fifth active — to achieve the feat.

“I try to do my best,” Malkin said earlier this season. “Of course, I have great motivation. I look at my 1,000 points. Huge point, in my opinion. I want to finish this year. We want to play in the playoffs. We want to be a great team. We want the Cup back.”

Malkin has 28 points in 23 games since the beginning of 2019.

Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Ed Olczyk (analyst) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa. Pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Kevin Jones and Patrick Sharp.


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

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