Bruins

Bruins fall to Penguins in overtime, 6-5

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Bruins fall to Penguins in overtime, 6-5

PITTSBURGH -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan believes the bye week has arrived at a perfect time for his up-and-down team.

Pittsburgh took an early two-goal lead before the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions were forced to rally from a two-goal hole with the final three goals of the game against Boston. Evgeni Malkin's second goal of the game at 2:51 of overtime capped the rally, as the Penguins beat the Bruins 6-5 Sunday night.

"It will be both a mental and physical break for everybody and it should serve us well," Sullivan said of the team's mandatory five-day break. "I don't think it's a bad thing for us to get away from the game a little bit and recharge the batteries, so when we all come back we should be excited to play."

The Penguins, coming off a 4-0 win at the New York Islanders on Friday, got consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 1-2 when they defeated Buffalo twice by a combined score of 9-1. The Penguins, who have just six wins in their last 11 games, moved into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but are one point ahead of three teams tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division.

"To get results at this time of year is critically important because you can see how tight the league and our division is," Sullivan said. "There was a lot of adversity tonight, but I thought our guys stayed with it."

Phil Kessel set up Malkin, who one-timed a shot over Tuukka Rask's pad during a 2-on-1 for the game-winner. Malkin and Kessel scored power-play goals in regulation, while Kris Letang, Jamie Oleksiak and Riley Sheahan also scored for Pittsburgh.

Matt Murray stopped all six shots he faced in relief of Tristan Jarry, who made 14 saves on 19 shots before he was pulled after the Bruins' fifth goal.

Sidney Crosby had three assists after getting a season-high four points against the Islanders. Crosby, with points in five straight against Boston, had four points in 11 games before the last two.

"We were down, but we felt like we did some good things," Crosby said. "I think we've been resilient. They capitalized on some mistakes, but we stuck with it. We're starting to play with some speed and purpose out there."

Brad MarchandDavid PastrnakDavid BackesNoel Acciari and Ryan Spponer all scored in regulation for Boston. The Bruins lost, but earned a point for the 11th straight game (8-0-3). Boston has now totaled 22 goals in its last four games.

Rask, who hasn't lost in regulation since Nov. 26, stopped 29 shots for Boston.

Patrice Bergeron, who scored four goals one night earlier during a win against Carolina, briefly left in the first period after blocking a shot, but he returned. Bergeron, who played 18:12, said X-rays on his right foot were negative, but he needed stitches.

That didn't take away the sting of the loss.

"We got the start we wanted, but then we got away from our game and they took it to us," Bergeron said. "There are some breakdowns that are uncharacteristic of us, but we stuck with it and we got a point out of it. Obviously, we know that we can be a lot better."

Both teams let two-goal leads slip away.

Pittsburgh held a 3-1 advantage in the first period on goals by Oleksiak, Kessel and Letang. But Boston rallied with the next four goals from Marchand, Acciari, Pastrnak and Backes to open a 5-3 lead.

Malkin's power-play tally with 3.6 seconds to play in the second period pulled Pittsburgh within one and Sheahan's short-side goal off the rush 2:54 into the third period tied the score.

Murray stopped Marchand's penalty shot with 1:01 to play in regulation to force overtime, setting the stage for Malkin to end it.

"It's hard when you're up by two goals and then you end up being down the way we were," Sullivan said. "Just our ability to stay in it and respond is a great indicator of our team leadership."

NOTES: Penguins D Brian Dumoulin played after missing the previous two games with a concussion. ... Penguins D Chad Ruhwedel missed his sixth game with an upper-body injury. ... The Penguins scratched D Ian Cole and F Carter Rowney. Boston sat F Frank Vatrano and D Paul Postma. ... Pittsburgh reassigned D Frank Corrado to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Will take a mandatory five-day bye week before visiting Montreal on Saturday

Penguins: Will also take a mandatory five-day bye week before hosting Detroit on Saturday

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A look at Bruins in free agency: Rick Nash

A look at Bruins in free agency: Rick Nash

By all accounts, the trade for power forward Rick Nash at the deadline should have worked out splendidly for the Bruins.

Nash, 33, is a proven NHL goal-scorer, a skilled big body. He fit the profile of previous Bruins Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Nathan Horton, who achieved big-time success with David Krejci in the past. Nash certainly looked as if he was going to be an impact player for the Black and Gold when he posted a couple of goals and a whopping 23 shots on net in his first four games after getting traded from the New York Rangers for Ryan Spooner, a 2018 first-round pick and Ryan Lindgren among other assets.

But the production slackened as the games rolled on, and Nash eventually was dinged up with a concussion that ended his regular season. The big right winger returned for the playoffs and even had a two-goal game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the second round, but Nash couldn’t consistently provide offensive punch on Boston’s second line. 

In that respect, Nash’s three goals and five points, along with his minus-7 rating in 12 playoff games, were a pretty big disappointment given the assets surrendered to acquire him. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was brought in to help avoid situations like the four consecutive playoff losses to the Lightning, where the Bruins couldn’t muster any even strength offense up front from their forward group.

Rather than label Nash a disappointment, however, the Bruins looked at his playoff performance as one that was irreparably harmed by a concussion right in the middle of everything. Clearly, it would have been difficult for any player to hit the ground running right at the start of the playoffs, and Riley Nash suffered from the same kind of issue when he jumped into the postseason after his own concussion issues as well.

“It’s unfortunate that [Nash] got banged up near the end of the season there, and it really took him a while to get back. I don’t think he was himself. He said that during the exit meetings that he wasn’t quite himself. It’s disappointing because we felt we had a guy that was really going to help our secondary scoring and that line and help David [Krejci] get going in some offensive situations,” said Bruins team president Cam Neely. “You could see the big body and how he protects the puck, and how good he is in the corners and along the walls. But he just wasn’t quite himself after coming back from that [concussion] injury.

“As Don [Sweeney] mentioned, we’re going to look at every UFA that we have, and RFA, and come to conclusions on whether or not it makes sense for us to move forward with those players.”

While the Bruins may not have ruled out any of their looming free agents with July 1 still more than a month away, it seems like a long shot for Nash to come back to the Bruins based on his age, performance and cost to retain him. Certainly, the player said all the right things while packing up his stuff on breakup day with the team. Nash was an unassuming, pleasant presence following the trade.

Nothing has changed from the simple, basic truth that the Bruins could desperately use a player like Nash when he’s still at his best.

“It was disappointing with having a concussion, and having some effects during it, and only playing a certain amount of games. Then coming back for the playoffs,” said Nash. “But everything was positive. The organization was great. The guys were awesome...So, it was a great chapter here and hopefully, it can continue.

“I would love to [return], for sure. They’ve got a special group here and a lot of talent. It’s a great place to play.”

Clearly, Nash will be looking at a healthy pay cut from the $7.8 million cap hit and $8.2 million in actual salary he was paid in the 2017-18 season. He’s not the same dominant power forward-type he was in his prime years with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers and is coming off 21 goals and 34 points along with a minus-12 in 60 games for the Blueshirts and Bruins. He still flashes the power puck possession, strong two-way game and occasional offense of his youth, but it sure looks like his ability to finish is fading.

If the Bruins could sign a player like Nash for a year or two in the $3-4 million per season range then it might be worth their while. He still appears good for at least 20 goals worth of big-bodied, power forward play. There may some level of interest in retaining Nash simply based on the large amount that Sweeney paid for the player at the deadline and the hope that he can still be what they envisioned him to be last spring.

But let’s be honest here.

What the Bruins really need is a young, better version of Nash on the upswing or at the very least is still in the prime of his career as they look for offensive impact on their second line. There are free-agent options such as James van Riemsdyk who will be much costlier while bringing a similar power forward skill set and there will undoubtedly be trade options such as the Gabriel Landeskog-types that the Bruins have flirted with in the past. Still, that will require the B’s surrendering more assets in trade after forking over their first-round pick, Spooner and a blue-chip prospect in Lindgren for what amounted to six goals and 11 points in 23 games from Nash.

That is not a lot of bang for the Black and Gold buck when it’s all settled.

If it were up to this humble hockey writer, it should be time to cut their losses on Nash while already holding an aging, overpriced power forward type in David Backes. Instead, the Bruins should focus on a younger, perhaps underrated commodity as Horton was when the Bruins traded for him as an underperforming Florida Panthers winger prior to the 2010-11 Cup-winning season.

The Bruins still need an explosive, big body as a goal-scoring bookend for Krejci on the second line, but there’s really no need to prolong the Rick Nash chapter given the underwhelming returns after his three-month stint with the team.

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Morning Skate: Can Caps end the DC drought?

Morning Skate: Can Caps end the DC drought?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while it figures that the Washington Capitals make it to the Stanley Cup Final in the first season in about five years where I didn’t pick them to get there. It totally checks out.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Greg Wyshynski has witnessed plenty of the good and the bad offered by the Washington Capitals over the years and writes that the Capitals have a chance to break the DC streak of futility. As I mentioned above, congrats go out to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals for finally getting over the hump against the Lightning.

*Lou Lamoriello is taking over the New York Islanders to give them an immediate air of something different than the up-and-down organizational struggle of the last few years.

*It’s going to be a long, comprehensive checklist for the new management team running the Carolina Hurricanes.

*It was a gut-wrenching end for Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 against the Capitals. Speaking of Game 7’s, Stamkos is beginning to build a body of work in them that isn’t very good for an NHL superstar.

*Did the San Jose Sharks make the right call in extending Evander Kane for a massive seven-year, $49 million contract? I don’t think so. I also think those are the kinds of contracts that can get a GM fired if they end up backfiring on a team that’s only had a few months with the player in question. Take away the blips on the screen as far as off-ice stuff goes with Kane, and the numbers on the ice really haven’t been there either.

*For something completely different: It’s almost comical how angry Carmelo Anthony is over Kyle Korver being called a better player on Instagram.

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