Bruins, Capitals meet for first time since blowout, Marchand-Eller

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For a technically low-stakes game* in mid-January, Thursday’s bout between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins brings a lot of sizzle to the table.

You’re forgiven if this might sneak up on you, but this is the first time these two teams will face off since the memorable season-opener when the Capitals bombarded the Bruins 7-0.

Naturally, this also means that this is the first time that Lars Eller can exact revenge – or, perhaps, take a foolish penalty trying to exact revenge – on Brad Marchand, who memorably went after Eller after the Dane rubbed him the wrong way with a goal celebration during the blowout.

The Bruins might (secretly) hope that Marchand can get the Capitals off their games, which is plausible with Eller holding that grudge, and also considering that Tom Wilson was unavailable during that opener thanks to his suspension. Boston might want that distraction when you realize that the Capitals have dominated the Bruins for quite some time, even beyond that 7-0 drubbing.

As NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty notes, the Bruins are trying to brush off the fact that they want to break Washington’s 13-game winning streak against the B’s.

“It’s more about that this team has had our number for the last number of years, and we need to get over that hurdle,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve got to get over the hurdle. They’re the Stanley Cup champions, and if you want to be the best then you’ve got to beat the best. I know it’s a long season, but we’re playing good hockey and I’d like to think our guys are going to be confident going into the game. Not thinking about what happened opening night or over the years, but still have a bit of an ‘Enough is enough’ type of attitude as well. You just don’t want to overthink and go ‘Here we go again’ if the first 10 minutes don’t go your way.”

That’s the thing when it comes to Eller and Marchand, and the potential mistakes that can come from score-settling. While the Bruins and Capitals are comfortably placed in playoff position, there are carrots dangling for both teams. Washington can strengthen its grip over the top spot in the Metro. Meanwhile, the Bruins are only two points behind the Maple Leafs for the second Atlantic seed (though Toronto has a game in hand), yet the Sabres are only two points behind Boston for the third spot (with both teams at 43 games played).

This is more than just a chance for the Bruins to finally clear the obstacle that is the Capitals. They also can give a glimpse of what they’re capable of as a healthier team, something they’ve already done by rattling off five consecutive wins.

Rather than going after Marchand, the Capitals have a chance to instead hurt the Bruins on the scoreboard — once again.

Not bad for the “dog days” of the NHL season, right?

* – After all, both teams would make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began right now, and they’re comfortably positioned to stay that way.

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.

Marchand imitates Sissons’ reaction after high-sticking penalty (Video)

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Who knew Brad Marchand could act?

After Saturday night’s performance in the first period against the Nashville Predators, the Boston Bruins star might be getting a call from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Known for slick goals, questionable hits and even a lick or two every now and then, Marchand pulled another rabbit out of the hat after taking a high-sticking call against Predators forward Colton Sissons.

Marchand was hardly pleased after what appeared to be a phantom call and as he was getting ushered off the ice, decided to do his best Sissons impression.

Three times.

It was pretty funny.

Marchand’s best Hollywood moves netted him a 10-minute misconduct and a two-minute unsportsmanlike misconduct penalty on top of the two-minute call for getting his stick up a little too high.

And the Oscar goes too…

His thank-you speech should be interesting.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


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 bounce Bruins from playoffs in five games

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The Tampa Bay Lightning will play for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning earned a 3-1 decision in Game 5 on Sunday afternoon against the Boston Bruins, sending the Bruins into hibernation mode after taking the series 4-1.

The series will be largely defined by what the line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson were able to accomplish after Tampa’s top line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller took a back seat.

Point scored his third goal of the series to erase David Krejci‘s first-period tally, slotting home after making a patient play around Tuukka Rask.

Point, who finished with seven points in the series, helped the Lightning rebound from their 6-2 Game 1 defeat with a four-point night, a performance that one could argue was a turning point in the series. The Lightning cruised from there, allowing eight goals during their four-game winning streak.

Point’s time-on-ice jumped by over two minutes from Game 1 to Game 5, and it was well-deserved.

Contributions from Tampa’s top line weren’t as relevant as they were against the New Jersey Devils. Kucherov had 10 points in that series but just two points in the second round. Stamkos had a pivotal goal in Game 4 to force overtime, but had only an empty-netter otherwise.

Miller made his presence felt in Game 5, first by knocking David Backes out of the game with a crushing hit in the second period, and then minutes later, offering up the go-ahead goal that stood as the game-winner.

Boston, meanwhile, couldn’t find much in the way of scoring outside of Game 1.

Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak combined four just four goals over the final four games of the series and secondary scoring from the Bruins was virtually non-existent, ultimately spelling the end to Boston’s season.

The Lightning now waits for the winner between the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Washington leads the series 3-2 after a 6-3 win on Saturday.


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

Girardi, Lightning push Bruins to brink of elimination

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have one foot in the Eastern Conference Final.

Dan Girardi scored 3:18 into overtime to give Tampa a 3-1 series lead after taking their second straight at TD Garden.

Girardi’s goal capped off a third-period comeback with his winner. Steven Stamkos scored his first goal at even strength in 21 games to erase the Bruins’ 3-2 lead.

There was some controversey on Stamkos’ goal as it appeared Nikita Kucherov tripped up Charlie McAvoy prior to the Stamkos one-timer that tied the game 3-3.

Brad Marchand, who wasn’t without his own controversy on the night after throwing a low hit on Ryan Callahan before licking him in a scuffled after, wasn’t none too pleased with the non-call.

The Bruins’ top line got their band back together in the game, but not before Tampa took a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes of the first period.

The Bruins found themselves trailing early and spending time killing off penalties as Brayden Point and Kucherov put the visitors head. Kucherov’s goal was his first of the series.

Patrice Bergeron‘s line with David Pastrnak and Marchand took over from there, regaining the mojo that had worked so well for them in Game 1 — their only win of the series thus far.

Pastrnak pulled the Bruins one back in the first and Bergeron netted the next two as the Bruins took their first lead in the third period.

The series shifts back to Tampa for Game 5 on Sunday afternoon and the Lightning now has a chance to close the series out at home.


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

Brad Marchand enrages Lightning with lick, low bridge (Video)

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Oh, boy. Here we go again.

If you thought a request from the NHL and scorn from many around the league would stop Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand from unleashing another tongue lashing an opponent, you’d be wrong.

Marchand’s tongue was the center of attention once again on Friday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

With less than 90 seconds left in the second period, Marchand leaned in for the kill on Lightning forward Ryan Callahan and swiped his face with his tongue.

Marchand is in nobody’s good books, and the questionable hit (low bridge) on Callahan moments earlier already had the Lightning in an uproar.

As you’ll remember, Marchand went in for the tongue kill in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs when he licked Leo Komarov.

In an in-game interview following the hit, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told NBC’s Pierre McGuire that Marchand’s low hit is the type that “ends careers.”

In Game 3, Marchand threw a similar hit on Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi.

The Bruins were leading the Lightning 3-2 in the third period, with Marchand notching his second assist on the Patrice Bergeron‘s go-ahead goal.


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