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The Buzzer: Bergeron line continues domination; Lehner posts shutout in debut

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Three Stars

1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins: 

The Bruins top line of Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand has picked up right where it left off last season. Bergeron gets the first-star spot on Monday after scoring his fourth career hat trick and adding a helper in a four-point night. Pastrnak was exceptional as well in the Bruins 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, compiling his own four-point game with two goals and two assists. Marchand chipped in three helpers for good measure.

2. Robin Lehner, New York Islanders:

A new team meant a new start for Lehner, who opened up in the preseason about a difficult time in his personal life. Coming from the Buffalo Sabres after being signed as a free agent this summer, Lehner had to wait his turn to get his first start in the Islanders’ crease after Thomas Greiss got off to a good start, stopping 45-of-46 in New York’s season opener. But after Greiss was shelled against the Nashville Predators, Lehner was given the green light for his debut. Lehner appeared more than ready was ready Monday, stopping all 35 shots sent his way by a potent San Jose Sharks team to post his ninth career shutout.

3. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres: 

Here’s a stat: Not since the lockout-shortened season in 2012-13 have the Sabres had a record better than .500. That’s incredible in its own right, and the reason why they were able to break out of that funk has been the stellar play of Eichel to start the season. Eichel fired home two more goals for his second and third of the season to lift the Sabres past the mighty Vegas Golden Knights. Buffalo had a tough outing in their season opener against the Boston Bruins but have rebounded, beating the New York Rangers and the Golden Knights to carve out an early 2-1-0 record. Eichel has been a factor in both wins after picking up a goal and an assist in the Rangers game. He’s billed as a stud and now has some decent talent around him to strut his stuff. Don’t sleep on Buffalo this season.

Highlights of the Night:

Bergeron’s backhand sauce is filthy here after leading the rush down the ice. He had a hat trick on the day, but this was arguably his best play from the win.

Eichel had himself a day, and this forehand-to-backhand sorcery was too good for Marc-Andre Fleury to ever have a chance to save.

Factoids:

Scores: 

Bruins 6, Senators 3

Islanders 4, Sharks, 2

Sabres 4, Golden Knights 2

Ducks 3, Red Wings 2 (SO)

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

The Buzzer: Lightning, Golden Knights put opponents on the brink

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Friday’s results

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Boston Bruins 3 OT (Tampa leads series 3-1): Nikita Kucherov scored his first goal of the series, Steven Stamkos scored his first even-strength goal in 21 games and Dan Girardi provided the heroics in overtime as the Lightning pushed the Bruins to the brink of playoff elimination with their win. Boston’s top line contributed all three goals, but it wasn’t enough on the night. Oh, and Brad Marchand licked a fellow player again.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, San Jose Sharks 3 (Vegas leads series 3-2): It all looked good around the midway point of the third period. Vegas owned a 4-0 lead and were heading to an easy win when the Sharks attacked. San Jose brought the game to 4-3 in just over six minutes to make the game oh-so-interesting, at least until an empty net goal by Jonathan Marchessault ended the comeback attempt. Alex Tuch provided two goals, including the game-winner.

Three stars

Alex Tuch, Golden Knights: Tuch had two goals on four shots for the Golden Knights, including an important — and very pretty — a third-period goal that ended up being the game-winner.

Steven Stamkos, Lightning: Stamkos’ third-period goal was not only a very important goal (it tied the game and forced overtime, where the Lightning won), it was his first even-strength marker in 21 games. Stamkos has been quiet in the playoffs while the team’s second line has provided a lot of firepower, so perhaps the goal will spark more out of the sniper going forward.

Patrice Bergeron, Bruins: Sure, the Bruins lost, but it wasn’t for lack of trying from Bergeron. The Selke finalist tied the game in the second period and then scored the go-ahead goal shorthanded in the third period. Bergeron had seven shots on goal and won 73 percent of the faceoffs he took.

Highlights

Stamkos beauty:

Tuch’s with a deft redirection:

Glove save of the night:

Fleury sillyness:

Factoids

Saturday’s action

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals, 7 p.m. ET (NBC) — series tied 2-2

Winnipeg Jets vs. Nashville Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN) — series tied 2-2


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

Palat, Lightning strike down Bruins to take 2-1 series lead

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In Game 2, Brayden Point was the hero and on Wednesday night as the best-of-7 series shifted to Boston, it was Ondrej Palat who sparked the Tampa Bay Lightning to victory.

Notice anything strange here?

If you guessed the answer was a question such as, ‘Where is Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Miller?’ then you’d be on the right track.

The line has a single goal so far in the series (Stamkos scored into the empty net to make Wednesday’s score a 4-1 final), yet the Lightning has rallied since a 6-2 loss in Game 1.

The reason? Secondary scoring, and a whole Palat of it.

It was Palat who scored twice in 1:32 early in the first period on Wednesday, his second and third goal in his past two games. Palat is up to four goals and eight points in eight games in the playoffs.

Both goals were all the Lightning needed as they kept the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand at bay (Bergeron scored the lone goal for the Bruins on the night).

The line of Point, Palat and Tyler Johnson has sizzled over the past two games, combining for 10 points as a unit during that time.

Tampa’s second line has picked up the slack with the Bruins paying a lot of attention to Stamkos and Co. It hasn’t been a winning formula as of late, however.

Andrei Vasilevskiy put in another solid performance, turning aside 28-of-29 for the win.

Both teams lock horns again on Friday for Game 4. For the Bruins, a victory will be a must as teams that go up 3-1 in a series have an 89 percent chance of moving on, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

For Boston, avoiding being sent to the brink of eliminations means getting their top line up and running again (they had 11 points combined in Game 1) or finding some scoring from literally anyone else.

Outside of Game 1, the Bruins have been steadily misfiring and need to curb it quickly before the Atlantic Division champs make that impossible.


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