Category Archives: Nick’s Net

Goalie talk and more from a former DekHockey goalie, as well as all kinds of things written by Nick Lanciani and some projected stats.

Kuraly leaps Bruins over Blackhawks, 4-2, in 2019 Winter Classic

Outlined against a grey-cloudy New Year’s Day sky, the Four Horsemen looked on with the Hockey Gods as the Boston Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2, at Notre Dame Stadium in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

From now on in Bruins lore four names will replace Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, Don Miller and Harry Stuhldreher with David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Sean Kuraly and Brad Marchand instead as all four contributed the necessary amount of goals to secure the victory in the home of the Fighting Irish– in the first non-football sports event at the stadium in its history.

Kuraly’s game-winning goal came with 9:40 remaining in the third period and gave the Bruins their first lead of the afternoon, 3-2.

Temperature at puck drop was a balmy 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit as Tuukka Rask (10-8-2 record, 2.63 goals against average, .914 save percentage in 20 games played) turned aside 36 out of 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for Boston.

Chicago goalkeeper, Cam Ward (6-7-4, 3.85 GAA, .888 SV% in 18 GP), made 32 saves on 35 shots against for a .914 SV% in the Blackhawks loss.

The Bruins improved to 2-1-0 in their all-time Winter Classic record, while the Blackhawks stumbled to 0-4-0 in the NHL’s New Year’s Day tradition.

Boston also surpassed the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres in the standings with the win, improving to 22-14-4 (48 points) on the season– good enough for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division standings.

All three teams are in action Thursday night with the Bruins hosting the Calgary Flames, Buffalo hosting the Florida Panthers and Montreal hosting the Vancouver Canucks as the Atlantic Division playoff position battle rages on.

The Blackhawks, in the meantime, fell to 15-21-6 (36 points) on the season and remain 6th in the Central Division– two points ahead of the last place in the division, St. Louis Blues– heading on the road to take on the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Tuesday’s Winter Classic was the 26th regular season outdoor game in league history, 6th outdoor game for Chicago (1-5-0) and 3rd outdoor game for Boston (2-1-0) overall.

Prior to Tuesday’s Winter Classic, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy confirmed Brad Marchand’s return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s action with an upper body injury, as well as Charlie McAvoy‘s status out of the lineup.

McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve last Friday and may return to action in time for Thursday night’s matchup in Boston against the Calgary Flames at the earliest.

With David Backes serving the 2nd game of his thee-game suspension, Cassidy juggled the lines past his usual first line trio of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.

Cassidy’s second line featured Jake DeBrusk to the left of David Krejci and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson on Krejci’s right side, with Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner on the third line in addition to Joakim Nordstrom, Colby Cave and Noel Acciari rounding out the fourth line.

Once again, Zdeno Chara and Brandon Carlo were paired together on the blue line, with Torey Krug playing alongside John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk with Kevan Miller.

With Backes suspended and McAvoy out of the lineup due to a lower body injury, only Ryan Donato and Steven Kampfer took in the game from Notre Dame’s press box as Boston’s healthy scratches.

Rask got the start in net for his second career appearance (previous, 2016 at Gillette Stadium, 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens) in a Winter Classic game, as well as his 469th career game in a Bruins uniform– surpassing Cecil “Tiny” Thompson in franchise history for most games played as a goaltender.

He was the backup goaltender to Tim Thomas‘ impressive win in net in the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park.

The atmosphere was palpable as the game got underway in front of a sellout crowd of 76,126 people in the 2nd most attended Winter Classic with a 1930s flair, as the visiting Bruins obtained the first penalty of the game early in the first period.

Carlo was sent to the box with a holding infraction against Jonathan Toews at 5:52 and Chicago couldn’t capitalize on the resulting power play.

In the vulnerable moment after the skater advantage, after forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, David Kampf helped slide the puck from Dylan Sikura to Brendan Perlini (5) for the 1-0 lead thanks to Perlini’s one-timed shot past Rask as the Bruins defensive coverage was nowhere to be seen.

Krug had his stick lifted as Krejci was turning the puck over and Moore was out of position to the right of the net instead of attempting to thwart any chances through the slot.

Kampf (10) and Sikura (3) had the assists on Perlini’s goal at 8:30 of the opening period.

Thanks to Perlini’s goal, Chicago now has the game’s first goal in eight of their last ten games, despite the outcome of Tuesday afternoon’s matchup.

Artem Anisimov tripped Nordstrom at 12:05 and sent the Bruins on their first power play of the day– yielding a power play goal just 23 seconds on the skater advantage.

Bergeron worked the puck to Pastrnak (24) who then waited for Ward to make the first move as Pastrnak scored from point blank, tying the game, 1-1, at 12:38.

An elated Pastrnak spread his wings as part of his celebration, while Bergeron (20) recorded the only assist on the goal.

Pastrnak now has 11 power play goals this season and remains in the top-five in goals scored this season (tied with Jeff Skinner at 24 and trailing Alex Ovechkin, 29, and John Tavares, 26).

Late in the opening frame, Grzelcyk was guilty of high-sticking Chicago’s Andreas Martinsen and served a two-minute minor in the penalty box at 17:03.

The Blackhawks didn’t score on the ensuing power play.

After 20 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 1-1. Boston led in shots on goal (14-12) and takeaways (6-2) after one period, while Chicago held onto an advantage in blocked shots (5-4), hits (11-10) and face-off win percentage (53-47).

Both teams had five giveaways each entering the first intermission and the Blackhawks were 0/2 on the power play. The B’s were 1/1 after one.

Early in the second period, Kuraly hooked Perlini and gave Chicago their third power play of the day. Once again, the Blackhawks were unable to score as the Bruins killed off Kuraly’s minor.

Midway through the period, Erik Gustafsson fired a shot from the point that was redirected by Dominik Kahun (5) past Rask and into the net, giving the ‘Hawks a 2-1 lead at 11:24 of the middle frame.

Gustafsson (14) and Toews (20) had the assists on the goal for Chicago.

Moments later, Gustafsson was penalized for roughing Nordstrom and the Bruins went on the power play for the second time of the afternoon at 17:57.

Less than a minute into the power play, Bergeron (13) walked into the low slot without pressure and sent a backhand shot over Ward to tie the game, 2-2, at 18:48.

Pastrnak (26) and Krug (20) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal.

Just over a minute later– in the closing seconds of the second period– Grzelcyk hooked Patrick Kane at 19:50.

Chicago’s ensuing power play would spill over into the third period as both teams went back into the dressing room for the second intermission, tied, 2-2.

Through 40 minutes of play, Chicago was outshooting Boston, 21-20, and led in takeaways (8-7), hits (21-20), as well as face-off win% (56-44). The B’s led in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (9-7) heading into the third period.

The Blackhawks went 0/4 on the power play and the Bruins were 2/2 through two periods.

Getting off on the right foot while resuming play on the power play in the third period was not Chicago’s specialty as Kane caught Miller with a high-stick at 1:03.

Less than a minute later, the 4-on-4 action became 4-on-3 when Anisimov tripped Miller at 1:42 of the third period.

For nine seconds, Boston had a 4-on-3 power play, then an abbreviated 5-on-3, followed by a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 power play. Despite the length and skater strength advantages, the Bruins did not convert on their extra skater opportunities early in the third.

Moments later, Gustav Forsling hooked Kuraly and the B’s couldn’t get anything going on the ensuing power play at 4:56.

Just past the midpoint of the third period, Kuraly (4) got his revenge on the scoreboard as a shot from the point bounced off Wagner and rebounded to No. 52 in black-and-gold before Kuraly tapped in a backhander into the open twine.

The Dublin, Ohio native then did his trademark “Kura-leap” into the glass, having given Boston their first lead of the day, 3-2, at 10:20.

Wagner (3) and Grzelcyk (10) had the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s goal.

The fourth liner now has three goals in his last five games.

With 1:38 remaining in regulation, Blackhawks head coach, Jeremy Colliton, pulled Ward for an extra attacker. About 36 seconds later, after Bruins defender, Kevan Miller sent the puck off glass and out, Colliton used his timeout to rally his troops for Chicago.

Facing immense pressure on the heels of a big save and coverup from Rask, Cassidy used his timeout for Boston with 39.2 seconds left in regulation.

Finally, after Krejci worked to clear the the defensive zone and was tripped up at the blue line, Marchand (13) took the loose puck down the ice and buried an empty net goal to seal the deal on Boston’s, 4-2, win at 19:27.

Krejci (24) had the only assist on Marchand’s goal.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 4-2, despite being outshot by the Blackhawks, 38-36. Boston finished the afternoon leading in blocked shots (19-13), giveaways (12-10) and hits (30-25), while Chicago finished the day leading in face-off win% (56-44).

Entering Tuesday, the Blackhawks had five power play goals in their last three games. After Tuesday, the Blackhawks went 0/4 on the skater advantage in the Winter Classic and had five power play goals in their last four games.

The B’s finished the afternoon 2/5 on the power play.

Of note, Kuraly’s game-winning goal was his second straight game-winning goal as he had scored the overtime winning goal in Buffalo last Saturday.

And Pastrnak’s 1-1–2 totals in Tuesday’s affair made him the 6th Bruins player since 1984-85 to require 40 or fewer games to reach the 50-point mark in a season (with the most recent being Marc Savard scoring 50 points in 39 games in 2006-07).

Boston has now won five out of their last seven games.

For the 12th time in 26 outdoor games, the team that won overcame a deficit en route to victory.

The Bruins take on the Flames on Thursday back home at TD Garden, then play host to the Sabres on Saturday (Jan. 5th), the Minnesota Wild next Tuesday (Jan. 8th) and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.

Next year’s Winter Classic heads to the Cotton Bowl where the Dallas Stars will play host to an opponent that is to be determined by the Stars, NHL and NBC.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games

It’s not the most recent forecast, since the Vegas Golden Knights played Game 41 of their 2018-19 regular season on Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings.

Nevertheless, it’s time to take a quick check of the pulse of the Golden Knights– how their season has progressed so far and where it appears to be going from here.

Thanks to some extenuating circumstances, perhaps Vegas fans will forgive me for not being able to get around to their quick forecasted glance after 20 games played this season.

Why? Because it would’ve been pretty dismal and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Although, now at the halfway mark (officially after the game against the Kings, technically unofficially as of this forecast), things have improved, but with a few concerns remaining.

Nate Schmidt served his 20 game suspension for a performance enhancing drug and for the most part, Vegas’ blue line got the job done.

The team’s record wasn’t desirable, but guys like Shea Theodore and Colin Miller continued to rise past expectations in their ability– even more so now that Schmidt is back and solidified the defensive zone for the Golden Knights.

One thing that has plagued the team all season is subpar goaltending.

Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t getting any younger and Malcolm Subban regressed quite a bit from his debut season as a backup netminder at the NHL level last season.

Managing playing time in the crease is something to keep in mind and we’ll take a closer look in a minute.

For now, Vegas stands in a divisional spot in the playoffs in the Pacific. Not nearly as dominant as last season, but keeping up with the legitimate(?) playoff contenders in an otherwise weaker division compared to the rest of the league.

Without further ado, here’s a look at the remaining 42 games (now 41) on the season and what to expect from the latest forecast.

Keep in mind, there are many variables that can and will change what goes down from now through the end of the regular season in April, like trades, injuries, general lineup changes, roster moves and anything else unbeknownst to the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that generates this forecast.

My degree is in communication– not math. It’s “not my fault”.

If a player meets the forecasted stats, then they’ve met expectations. If they exceed their forecasted stats, then they’ve exceed expectations.

And of course, if a player does not live up to the latest forecast, then something went awry (the player could’ve been injured, been unlucky or regressed– a.k.a. didn’t meet expectations).

Puck luck cannot be predicted, but general trends and estimated gut feelings can indicate a sense of what’s to come based on the results of each and every scoresheet night-in and night-out.

Vegas Golden Knights Forecast Through 40 Games (42 Games Remaining)

(Just click on the image if you’re having trouble seeing it– WordPress changed their layout so there’s no more slideshow options.)

Every set of blessings comes with a set of curses and this year, that rings truer more than ever before for the Golden Knights. Of course, it’s only their second season in franchise history, but it’s still true.

William Karlsson (24-26–50 expected totals) is having a “down” year compared to last season’s breakout career-year of 43 goals and 35 assists (78 points). Reaching the 50-point plateau is still respectable, but doesn’t scream any guarantees of being on the first line should the postseason roll around.

Head coach, Gerard Gallant, has enough top-six forward depth to play around with if Karlsson starts to head south, considering Alex Tuch‘s expected 22-28–50 totals, Paul Stastny‘s expected 14-22–36 totals and Max Pacioretty‘s expected 21-22–43 totals.

Despite the ever-consistent qualities of Jonathan Marchessault (27-33–60 expected totals) and Reilly Smith (17-32–49 expected totals), this year’s Golden Knights team point spread is more spread out.

As it is, while Marchessault should lead in goals (27), assists (30) and points (60) and Karlsson should be second in goals (24) and points (50), one would think Smith would be second or third in whatever stats Marchessault and Karlsson aren’t leading in.

However, Tuch’s expected point outcome (50) is tied with Karlsson for the second-most points behind Marchessault and Tuch is expected to rank third on Vegas’ roster in goals behind Marchessault and Karlsson with Smith a distant 5th behind Pacioretty’s 21 expected goals this season.

While the offense isn’t as impactful from the forwards, the blue line has really come into its own in Vegas.

Shea Theodore’s expected 8-29–37 totals will be the best of his teammates and fellow defenders in a Golden Knights uniform, leading Colin Miller (5-27–32 expected totals) and Nick Holden (7-17–24 expected totals).

Nick Holden. That’s right. Holden is ahead of Nate Schmidt (5-18–23 expected totals) in the latest forecast.

But that speaks to Holden’s resiliency in his career and the chemistry Gallant has found in his pairing every night– coupled, of course, with the fact that Holden is seeing more time on the ice (in the literal “games played” sense) than he has the last couple of seasons with the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins.

He is a durable top-four defender that’s still in his athletic prime and it is exactly that kind of depth that can take teams deep into a Stanley Cup Final run.

In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury should land around a 2.61 goals against average and .911 save percentage in a season in which he has been overworked thus far.

He will continue to be overworked unless Malcolm Subban regains his footing, Gallant argues for calling someone up from the Chicago Wolves (AHL) or Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee makes an acquisition for a suitable backup option if all else fails.

Fleury has played in 35 of the 40 games up to this forecast. He’s since played in 35 out of the 41 games played by the club this season.

Subban has played in six games and is 0-5-0 in that span. His expected outcomes are a 2.76 GAA and .907 SV%– both below average goaltending the backup role.

Whereas if Vegas wanted to try Oscar Dansk or Maxime Lagace without the pressures of coming into the dressing room in an emergency recall situation– unlike last season– a little healthy competition for the backup role might nudge Subban in the right direction and take off some of Fleury’s workload.

It’s not that Fleury can’t handle 50-plus games anymore as a starting goaltender, but rather, it’s just that he shouldn’t be relied on for about 85% of the games in the regular season as is his current going rate.

Bruins mount OT comeback win in Buffalo, 3-2

The Boston Bruins didn’t lead Saturday night at KeyBank Center until the game was over at 3:44 of the overtime period– after Sean Kuraly pocketed the game-winning goal, 3-2, over the Buffalo Sabres.

Tuukka Rask (9-8-2 record, 2.67 goals against average, .912 save percentage in 19 games played) made 26 saves on 28 shots against for a .929 SV% in the win for Boston, while Carter Hutton (13-11-3, 2.65 GAA, .916 SV% in 27 GP) turned aside 38 out of 42 shots faced for a .929 SV% in the loss for the Sabres.

Rask improved his career record in the month of December to 44-20-9 and tied Tiny Thompson for the most games played by a goaltender in Bruins franchise history, having appeared in his 468th career game.

Hutton entered Saturday night 7-1-1 in his last nine home games and 9-3-1 on home ice this season. As a result of the loss, Hutton has fallen to 9-3-2 at KeyBank Center this season– his first season in Buffalo.

He also went into Saturday night 0-3-1 in his last four games with a 3.22 GAA and .899 SV%. He’s now 0-3-2 in his last five games.

The B’s improved to 21-14-4 (46 points) on the season and jumped ahead of the Montreal Canadiens for 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings.

Buffalo, in the meantime, fell to 21-12-6 (48 points) and remain in 3rd place in the Atlantic.

Prior to Saturday night’s matchup with the Sabres, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, indicated that Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy would be out of the lineup on Saturday and may be possibilities to play in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Tuesday at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks.

McAvoy was placed on the injured reserve Friday (retroactive to about a week ago) and will be eligible to return in time for Tuesday, while Marchand remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.

David Backes was suspended three-games by the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday after violating Rule 48.1 in Thursday night’s matchup with the New Jersey Devils.

Backes caught New Jersey forward, Blake Coleman, with an illegal check to the head in the final two minutes of regulation and received a two-minute minor penalty on the play.

He sat out of Saturday night’s action and will miss the Winter Classic, as well as next Thursday night’s game at TD Garden against the Calgary Flames as a result of his suspension.

With no Marchand and no McAvoy, Cassidy juggled the lines a bit by placing Danton Heinen alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, moving Joakim Nordstrom to the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk and shuffling the bottom six forwards with each other.

Kuraly skated to the left of Colby Cave with Chris Wagner at right wing on the third line and Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Noel Acciari made up the fourth line unit for Boston.

On defense, Zdeno Chara was paired with Brandon Carlo, with Torey Krug and John Moore rounding out the top-four blue liners.

Matt Grzelcyk and Kevan Miller were limited to the bottom pair on defense, but played a vital role in the build up to the overtime, game-winning goal, in the long-run.

DeBrusk and Grzelcyk both played in their 100th career NHL game on Saturday, with Steven Kampfer as the only healthy scratch for the Bruins.

Early in the first period, after making the initial diving save on Jeff Skinner, Rask let up a rebound that Marco Scandella (2) quickly scooped up and fired into the open twine with Rask in desperation.

Skinner (13) and Sam Reinhart (30) had the assist’s on Scandella’s goal at 4:40 of the first period and the Sabres jumped out to a quick, 1-0, lead.

About five minutes later, the Bruins responded.

Boston capitalized on a misstep by one of the Sabres skaters behind Buffalo’s own net, whereby the puck trickled freely into the low slot for Acciari (1) to bat it off a defender and past Hutton to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted goal at 9:30.

The goal was Acciari’s first in 33 games, dating back to the last weekend of the regular season, last season.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Zach Bogosian hooked DeBrusk and the B’s went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Boston did not convert on their first skater advantage of the evening.

Late in the first period, Cave hooked Skinner and sent the Sabres on the power play for their first time in the game at 16:48. The Bruins made the kill.

Both teams entered the dressing room tied, 1-1, heading into the first intermission. Boston led in shots on goal (14-7), blocked shots (7-4) and face-off win percentage (71-29) after 20 minutes of play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-1) and hits (9-7).

Each club was 0/1 on the power play entering the second period.

Krug tripped Johan Larsson at 2:53 of the middle frame, but the resulting Sabres power play wouldn’t last long as Jack Eichel caught Chara with a high-stick and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double-minor infraction at 3:11 of the second period.

As a result of Eichel’s penalty, both sides skated 4-on-4 for the next 1:52, then Boston had an abbreviated double-minor power play for the remainder.

The Bruins couldn’t generate a zone advantage on the ensuing power play and allowed Larsson (4) to gain entry on a 2-on-1 shorthanded bid for the Sabres and score.

Evan Rodrigues (9) and Scandella (5) notched the assists on Larsson’s goal at 5:43 of the middle frame and Boston allowed their eighth shorthanded goal against of the season as a result (tied for the most allowed this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Larsson’s goal made it, 2-1, Buffalo and was the first shorthanded goal of the season for the team in blue-and-gold.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Sabres led the Bruins, 2-1, and shots on goal were even at, 21-21, with Buffalo having outshot Boston, 14-7, in the second period alone.

Late in the third period, Rasmus Ristolainen was penalized for kneeing Pastrnak at 16:17.

On the ensuing power play, the Bruins brass dominated possession in the attacking zone and worked the puck back to Krug. The Boston defender unloaded a shot from the point that was promptly tipped well by DeBrusk (11) and into the net behind Hutton to tie the game, 2-2, on the power play.

DeBrusk’s power play goal was his first goal since Nov. 24th and was assisted by Krug (19) and Pastrnak (25) at 17:31.

As time expired on regulation action, the B’s and Sabres were still tied, 2-2, and heading for overtime.

Boston led in shots on goal through 60 minutes of play, 39-26, with the Bruins holding a distinct, 18-5, advantage in the third period.

Blocked shots were even (12-12), but the Sabres led in takeaways (11-3), giveaways (13-5) and hits (20-19). The Bruins remained strong on the face-off dot, amassing a, 55-45, advantage in face-off win% through three periods.

Buffalo was 0/2 on the power play and Boston was 1/4 on the skater advantage entering overtime.

Just 46 seconds into the 3-on-3 OT action, Krejci interfered with Skinner and was sent to the penalty box. Buffalo went on the 4-on-3 power play with plenty of time to make something happen in the five-minute overtime period.

In fact, to try to craft the perfect plan for eviscerating Boston’s penalty kill and taking home the bonus point, Sabres head coach, Phil Housley, used his timeout to rally his players.

But the Bruins penalty kill stood tall and Rask made save after crucial save as the Sabres power play battered the B’s.

Late in the overtime, having killed off Krejci’s penalty and resumed 3-on-3 action thanks to the first whistle after Buffalo’s power play expired in overtime, Kuraly, Miller and Grzelcyk were on the ice to take the draw in their own zone.

Kuraly won the face-off back to Miller, who sent the puck along to Grzelcyk.

As Kuraly rushed up the neutral zone, Grzelcyk hit him with a lead pass and brought forward Boston’s attacking zone entry.

Kuraly (3) fired a quick shot on Hutton and generated a rebound, which he chased down and collected to muster an odd, elevated, backhanded tap-in while crashing the slot to beat Hutton and steal the victory on the road.

Grzelcyk (9) and Miller (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists on Kuraly’s game-winning overtime goal at 3:44 and the Bruins defeated the Sabres, 3-2, in sudden death.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-28), hits (21-20) and face-off win% (53-47), while Buffalo ended the night ahead in giveaways (13-5). Both teams had 12 blocked shots aside.

The Sabres went 0/3 on the power play and the B’s went 1/4.

The Bruins have now won their last four games that went into overtime this season and finished the month of December with a 7-7-0 record.

Boston improved to 4-4 in overtime this year, while the Sabres dropped to 5-5 in the extra frame.

Buffalo has now lost back-to-back games after the mandatory three-day league-wide Christmas break.

Having reached the end of the 2018 calendar, the Bruins will now gear up for New Year’s Day and the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

After all of the festivities die down, Boston travels back home to host the Flames next Thursday, the Sabres next Saturday, the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 8th and the Washington Capitals on Jan. 10th before hitting the road for a quick trip to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 12th.

Blackwood picks up first win, Devils beat Bruins, 5-2

With Cory Schneider out of the lineup due to an abdominal strain and Keith Kinkaid performing well below average thus far, the New Jersey Devils turned to Mackenzie Blackwood in goal for the time being and it’s beginning to pay off with a, 5-2, victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at TD Garden.

The win was Blackwood’s first career NHL victory in just his fourth career appearance in the crease at the top level of professional hockey in the world.

Blackwood (1-1-0 record, 2.16 goals against average, .939 save percentage in four games played) stopped 40 out of 42 shots faced for a .952 SV% in the win for the Devils.

Jaroslav Halak (12-6-2, 2.28 GAA, .928 SV% in 22 GP) made 28 saves on 32 shots against for an .875 SV% in the loss for Boston.

The Bruins fell to 20-14-4 (44 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while New Jersey improved to 13-16-7 (33 points), but stayed in 8th place in the Metropolitan.

Prior to Thursday night’s action, B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy indicated Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller would all be making their returns to the lineup, while Charlie McAvoy would be out of the action against the Devils with a lower body injury sustained after blocking a shot last Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

McAvoy is considered day-to-day and there is no timetable for Saturday night’s matchup in Buffalo against the Sabres regarding his playing status.

Cassidy reunited Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on the first line, with Danton Heinen, David Krejci and DeBrusk rounding out the top-six forwards.

Ryan Donato, Colby Cave and David Backes were kept together on the third line, with Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner serving as the fourth line.

With the return of Chara on the blue line, the Bruins captain was paired with Matt Grzelcyk. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo remained the second defensive pairing, as John Moore and Kevan Miller were reunited as the bottom pair.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Steven Kampfer and Noel Acciari joined McAvoy in the press box Thursday night as healthy scratches.

Damon Severson (5) kicked things off 25 seconds into the action, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead after New Jersey won a face-off in their own zone, then quickly skated the puck up ice with little pressure.

Andy Greene (8) and Travis Zajac (10) had the assists on Severson’s goal.

Moments later, Stefan Noesen hooked Miller and sent Boston on the power play for this first time of the night at 4:15 of the first period.

The Bruins did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

About ten minutes later, Moore tripped Kyle Palmieri and gave the Devils their first power play of the evening.

Palmieri (19) enacted his revenge on the scoreboard, capitalizing on a shot that went his way for the power play goal at 15:25 of the opening period.

Will Butcher (10) and Dan Boyle (5) notched the assists on Palmieri’s goal and New Jersey led, 2-0.

After one period, the Devils led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-10, in shots on goal. New Jersey also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), takeaways (6-3), hits (11-9) and face-off win percentage (53-47), while Boston led in giveaways (10-4).

The Devils were 1/1 on the power play entering the first intermission, while the B’s were 0/1.

Early in the second period, Cave tripped Greene, but New Jersey was unable to convert on the ensuing power play at 3:06 of the middle frame.

Late in the second period, while pinching deep into the offensive zone, Moore sent a tape-to-tape pass to Wagner (4) to put the Bruins on the board and cut New Jersey’s lead in half, 2-1, at 15:07.

Moore (5) and Heinen (6) had the primary and secondary assists on the goal.

Greene followed up with a tripping infraction of his own late in the period, having taken down Krejci with his stick at 19:48. The ensuing skater advantage for the B’s would carry over into the third period, as the Devils went into the dressing room for the second intermission with the lead, 2-1.

Boston rallied for a, 19-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period, good enough to pull ahead, 29-21, in total shots on goal through 40 minutes.

After two periods, New Jersey maintained the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), takeaways (14-4) and hits (23-16), while Boston led in giveaways (17-10) and face-off win% (51-49).

The Devils were 1/2 on the power play after 40 minutes of play and the Bruins were 0/2.

Early in the third period, Blake Coleman (10) blocked a shot from Krug, then went the length of the ice as Carlo tried to wrap his stick around him.

While Carlo tried to tangle with Coleman, the New Jersey forward deked Halak out of his mind and scored on an individual effort made to look easy at 4:15 of the third.

The Devils once again had a two-goal lead, 3-1.

About a few minutes later, Miller tripped Miles Wood as Wood nearly slid the puck underneath Halak and into the twine. The Bruins successfully killed off Miller’s infraction.

Past the midpoint of the final frame of regulation, Nico Hischier (10) received a pass from Wood as Wood broke free from Krug and elevated the puck past the Bruins netminder to make it, 4-1, New Jersey.

Wood (6) and Noesen (4) tallied the assists on Hischier’s goal at 12:43.

With about three minutes remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker.

Despite Bergeron (12) notching a goal on a redirection from DeBrusk (his third assist of the season) to make it, 4-2, at 17:05– pulling Halak did not go as planned.

Backes skated by Coleman and delivered a blow to the head at 18:00 and received a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

While on the penalty kill in the final two minutes of regulation– and trailing by two goals– Cassidy pulled his goaltender again for an extra skater, though New Jersey was able to capitalize with an empty net power play goal at 19:12 thanks to Coleman (11).

Hischier (15) and Greene (9) collected the assists on Coleman’s second goal of the night and the Devils held onto the 5-2 victory.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (42-33), giveaways (17-11) and face-off win% (56-44), while New Jersey led in blocked shots (19-4) and hits (28-20). The Devils went 2/4 on the power play, while the B’s went 0/2.

The Bruins are now 6-7-0 in the month of December with one game remaining (this Saturday in Buffalo) before the dawn of the New Year (2019).

The B’s take on the Sabres on the road this Saturday before traveling to Notre Dame Stadium for their New Year’s Day matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

Whalers– er, Hurricanes beat Bruins, 5-3

“Hockey’s been dead to me since 1997,” my high school English teacher told me one day senior year. You see, he was from Connecticut and– by default– a Hartford Whalers fan.

When the Whalers relocated to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season, my 12th grade English teacher couldn’t see himself switching allegiances and rooting for one of Hartford’s rivals and he wasn’t about to follow the Whalers to Greensboro (because their new home arena– ironically– wouldn’t be ready for a couple of years), then ultimately Raleigh.

So for Mr. Huse, hockey didn’t even make it to 100 years like the NHL celebrated last season.

For others, nostalgia sells well, though it’ll never fully replace the void left behind by the real thing.

For the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins on Sunday night, it meant the Hurricanes could sell more seats and merchandise, then let fans watch a thrilling, 5-3, comeback Hurricanes victory over the B’s at PNC Arena.

Coincidentally, the last time the Whalers beat the Bruins as a team based out of Hartford, Connecticut, the final score was, 6-3, on March 12, 1997, so history almost repeats itself, if you will.

Sebastian Aho had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-four in Carolina’s victory on Sunday, while Petr Mrazek (6-7-2 record, 2.62 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the win.

Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-8-2, 2.72 GAA, .911 SV% in 18 GP) made 32 saves on 37 shots against for an .865 SV% in the loss.

After Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory over the Nashville Predators on home ice, the Bruins hit the road for one last game before the mandatory three-day, league-wide, Christmas break.

Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup against the Predators and recorded his 299th and 300th career goals, becoming the 6th player in franchise history to record 300-plus goals with Boston.

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly each added a goal (with Kuraly pocketing the empty net goal) against Nashville before the Bruins boarded a plane headed for Raleigh.

Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in the win against the Preds and had Sunday off, while Rask backstopped the Bruins in the second night of back-to-back games, home and away.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the B’s from Saturday to Sunday, leaving Bergeron on the first line, centering Marchand and Danton Heinen.

Joakim Nordstrom remained on the left side of David Krejci and Pastrnak, while the bottom-six forward lines of Ryan DonatoColby CaveDavid Backes and Kuraly-Noel AcciariChris Wagner remained intact.

With Urho Vaakanainen assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and subsequently loaned to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Finland, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Sunday.

Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Jake DeBrusk (concussion protocol) and Kevan Miller (larynx) are all progressing and nearing returns after the Christmas break. Some, if not all, may be ready to go on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.

If not, they might return in Buffalo against the Sabres next Saturday. Otherwise, the three currently injured Bruins may return next year (well, next calendar year, that is).

As a result of Sunday’s loss, the B’s fell to 6-1-1 in the 2nd night of back-to-back games this season (outscoring opponents, 24-13, in that span).

Micheal Ferland kicked off the action on Whalers Night early in the first period, getting his stick up high on Backes, yielding a minor infraction for high-sticking at 1:27.

The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night and got to work quickly with a fluke play-turned-power play goal thanks to a friendly-fire bounce off of Trevor van Riemsdyk.

Donato (4) was the last Bruin to touch the puck on a shot attempt by Torey Krug that then deflected off of van Riemsdyk, bounced over Mrazek and landed in the net behind the Carolina goaltender.

Krug (18) and Marchand (28) had the assists on Donato’s goal at 2:40 of the first period and Boston led, 1-0.

Steven Kampfer went to the penalty box at 5:35 for holding Warren Foegele, then Acciari made it a 5-on-3 advantage for the Hurricanes after he high-sticked Sebastian Aho at 6:29.

The Hurricanes did not convert on their abbreviated two-skater advantage and subsequent shortened 5-on-4 power play, but the Bruins were able to work the game’s momentum in their favor.

With Kampfer fresh out of the box, Boston worked the offensive zone with little pushback and Kampfer (2) unloaded a shot from the point that Mrazek had no chance at stopping to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

Kuraly (6) and Marchand (29) had the assists on Kampfer’s goal at 8:56 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.

Prior to Sunday, the Bruins were 16-1 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season. After Sunday, the Bruins were 16-2 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season.

Why? Because the Hurricanes had a whale of a comeback.

(Thank you, thank you very much.)

Carolina improved to 5-12-3 when allowing the game’s first goal this season, thanks to four unanswered goals stretching from the first period into the second period.

Boston fell to 13-3-2 when scoring first this season as a result of the blown two-goal lead and loss.

Justin Faulk interfered with Donato and was sent to the box at 10:09 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Instead, shortly after killing off the penalty, Carolina capitalized on a fluke play.

Charlie McAvoy misplayed the puck in his own zone, leading to a Hurricanes attack that resulted in Teuvo Teravainen (7) banking a shot off of McAvoy’s glove and into the net as the young Bruins defender motioned his hand to try to bat the puck away (but instead swatted it into his own net).

Andrei Svechnikov (9) and Aho (23) had the assists and the Canes cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 12:55 of the first period.

With about 16 seconds left on the clock in the first frame, Svechnikov caught Krug with a high-stick and cut a rut to the sin bin.

The Bruins did not score on the power play that stretched into the second period.

Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Carolina held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 13-10.

The Hurricanes also led in takeaways (8-1), while the B’s dominated in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (3-1), hits (14-11) and face-off win percentage (61-39) through one period.

The Canes were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were 1/3 after 20 minutes of play.

While still on the penalty kill, Carolina roared out to a fast start in the second period as Aho (13) fired a shot that squibbed through Rask’s five-hole as McAvoy partially screened his own goaltender.

Teravainen (20) had the only assist on Aho’s short-handed goal at 1:29 of the second period and the Hurricanes tied the game, 2-2.

As a result of the shorthanded goal against, Boston has now allowed six shorthanded goals this season (tied for the 4th worst in the league).

Aho (14) followed up with his second goal of the night after Carolina forced a turnover and entered the attacking zone with a 3-on-1. This time a one-timer beat Rask and the Hurricanes led, 3-2, at 7:11 for the first time of the night.

Moments later, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Faulk (2) wired a shot from the point that beat Rask’s glove side as traffic in the slot screened the Bruins netminder from even seeing the puck.

Ferland (5) and Justin Williams (13) had the assists on Faulk’s goal at 11:47 and the Canes led, 4-2.

Late in the middle frame, Donato (5) scored his second goal of the night with a patented Donato snipe that went bar-down in the top left corner to pull the B’s within one goal.

Colby Cave (4) and Backes (7) had the assists at 16:05.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes held onto a, 4-3, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-28, advantage in shots on goal.

Early in the third period, Ferland hooked Donato and the Bruins went back on the power play at 5:44.

While shorthanded, Teravainen (8) capitalized on another bad play with the puck in Boston’s own zone– this time on a lapse in judgment from Rask– and pocketed the mostly empty net goal to make it, 5-3, Hurricanes after Aho was denied the first time.

Aho (24) did pick up an assist, however, on Teravainen’s goal and Carolina led by two-goals at 7:20 of the third period.

Late in the final frame of regulation, the Bruins bench picked up a minor penalty for too many men (served by Donato) at 14:27 and Svechnikov put the Hurricanes on the penalty kill for boarding McAvoy at 17:20.

Neither power play was successful and despite pulling Rask for an extra attacker with about 2:40 remaining in regulation, the Bruins failed to score.

At the final horn the Hurricanes had handed Boston their first regulation loss to Carolina since April 13, 2013, with a, 5-3, victory.

Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-30) and giveaways (8-6), while Boston led in blocked shots (16-14), hits (41-32) and face-off win% (60-40) as the team wearing Whalers throwbacks played the role of spoiler just as Hartford used to actually do.

The Canes went 0/3 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/5.

Among other stats, McAvoy finished the night as a minus-four. Matt Grzelcyk and Krejci were both minus-three’s. Steven Kampfer was a plus-one.

The reported attendance at PNC Arena was 17,491– the second highest this season, short of the 18,000-plus crowd for the home opener.

Boston fell to 20-13-4 (44 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic, while Carolina improved to 15-15-5 (35 points) and stayed in 6th in the Metropolitan Division.

Boston takes on New Jersey (Thurs.) and Buffalo (Sat.) before heading to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2019.

B’s beat Ducks, 3-1, on milestone night for Krejci, Krug

David Krejci became the 10th player to reach 600 points with the Boston Bruins on Thursday as a result of his insurance goal in Boston’s, 3-1, victory over the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden.

Krejci reached the 600-point plateau in his 804th career NHL game.

Fellow Czech forward, David Pastrnak had a three-point night (1-2–3 totals) and Torey Krug became the all-time leader in assists by a US-born defender in Bruins franchise history, notching his 200th career assist with Boston in the win.

Jaroslav Halak (11-5-2 record, 2.20 goals against average, .930 save percentage in 20 games played) made 24 saves on 25 shots against for a .930 SV% in the win for the Bruins, while Anaheim’s John Gibson (15-10-4, 2.54 GAA, .926 SV% in 30 GP) turned aside 28 out of 31 shots faced for a .903 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 19-12-4 (42 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division, while the Ducks fell to 19-13-5 (43 points) and remained in 3rd place in the Pacific Division, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, though the Sharks have two games in-hand.

Boston currently holds the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the Buffalo Sabres by three points for the final Atlantic divisional spot in the postseason.

On Tuesday, Boston placed recent waiver acquisition, Gemel Smith, on waivers for the purpose of assignment to Providence. The Bruins also assigned defender, Jeremy Lauzon, to the P-Bruins on the same day.

Smith, 24, (2-1–3 totals in 17 games with the Bruins and Dallas Stars this season) cleared waivers Wednesday and subsequently joined Providence’s roster.

Lauzon, 21, made his NHL debut on Oct. 25th against the Philadelphia Flyers and recorded his first career NHL goal on Nov. 11th against the Vegas Golden Knights.

He had 1-3–4 totals in 15 games with Boston prior to being assigned and had 1-6–7 totals in 52 games with Providence last season (his first professional season).

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup from Monday night’s, 4-0, victory in Montreal to Thursday night’s battle with Anaheim and indicated a minor injury for Tuukka Rask, as well as Boston’s recent record against the Ducks influenced his decision in starting Halak on Thursday.

Prior to Thursday’s final outcome, the Bruins had lost nine-straight games against the Ducks in the regular season.

As a result of Tuesday’s transactions, the only players listed out of the lineup against Anaheim for Boston were all injury related, as Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Jake DeBrusk (concussion) and Kevan Miller (larynx) remain out of action.

Bergeron addressed the media after Thursday’s morning skate and indicated the team doctors and trainers will have the final say in his return to the lineup– though he is pushing for Saturday or Sunday.

John Moore tripped Jakob Silfverberg at 3:00 of the first period and gave the Ducks an early power play as the action got going Thursday night.

Anaheim did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and moments later was charged with a tripping infraction of their own as Andrew Cogliano got his stick tangled in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson‘s legs at 6:44.

While in the waning seconds of their first power play of the night, Bruins forward, Danton Heinen, interfered with Anaheim’s Nick Ritchie at 8:41 and ended the Bruins power play prematurely.

After one period of play, both teams remained tied, 0-0, with the B’s leading in shots on goal, 8-7, despite the Ducks leading in just about every other statistical category.

Anaheim led in blocked shots (7-2), takeaways (6-3), giveaways (12-4) and face-off win percentage (65-35), while both teams recorded seven hits aside entering the first intermission.

The Ducks were 0/2 on the power play, while Boston went 0/1 after 20 minutes.

Hampus Lindholm kicked off a string of action in the second period as Pastrnak drew an interference penalty, yielding another Bruins power play at 7:44 of the second period.

On the ensuing skater advantage the Bruins almost flubbed the puck out of the zone, had the puck taken an awkward bounce off of David Backes‘ stick.

Instead, the rubber biscuit landed on the stick blade of Krug’s, which the defender quickly flung it to Pastrnak (22) for the surefire power play goal at 8:19.

Krug (17) and Backes (6) had the assists on the goal and the Bruins led, 1-0.

Brad Marchand found himself all over the scoresheet for various reasons Thursday night, starting with a slashing minor against Ryan Getzlaf at 12:20, but shortly followed up by drawing a penalty as Cogliano slashed Marchand about five minutes later.

Boston went on the power play at 17:58 when Cogliano went back to the box for a second time, but it wasn’t long before the B’s power play came to an end.

The Bruins won a face-off in the offensive zone and worked the puck to Pastrnak, then Marchand and finally to Krug (4) at the point, whereby No. 47 in black-and-gold blasted a shot past Gibson to make it, 2-0, at 18:05 of the second period.

Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (21) had the assists on the power play goal and the Ducks didn’t even possess the puck on the short-lived, unsuccessful, penalty kill.

Entering the second intermission, Boston was ahead, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 18-15, in shots on goal. Anaheim led in blocked shots (9-6), giveaways (15-7), hits (19-17) and face-off win% (54-46), while both teams had eight takeaways each.

The Ducks were 0/3 on the power play and the B’s were 2/3.

Though the score wouldn’t remain the same, Boston would go on to improve to 14-1-0 when leading after two periods and Anaheim fell to 6-9-2 when trailing after 40 minutes.

The Bruins also improved to 12-2-2 when scoring first in a game this season.

Brandon Carlo hooked Brian Gibbons at 3:03 of the third period, but Anaheim’s power play unit went silent on all four extra skater opportunities.

Shortly after killing off Carlo’s minor infraction, Krejci (7) rocketed a shot past Gibson at 5:21 to give the B’s a three-goal lead.

Pastrnak (22) and Marchand (25) were credited with the assists as Pastrnak completed a three-point night and Krejci extended his point-streak to eight games (and 5-6–11 totals in those eight games).

Getzlaf hooked Marchand at 10:14 in the game’s final penalty, but the Bruins were unsuccessful on the resulting power play.

Late in the final frame of regulation, Josh Mahura (1) received a pass back to the point off of a face-off in Anaheim’s attacking zone and sent a slap shot past Halak for his first career NHL goal.

Carter Rowney (5) had the only assist on the goal at 15:44 and the Ducks got on the board, 3-1.

With about a minute remaining in regulation, Randy Carlyle pulled Gibson for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Bruins secured the, 3-1, victory upon the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 31-25, while the Ducks led in giveaways (20-8), hits (25-22) and face-off win% (55-45).

Both teams had ten blocked shots aside as the Ducks went 0/4 on the power play and the B’s went 2/4.

With the mandatory, league-wide, three-day Christmas break fast approaching, the Bruins finish up their pre-Christmas action with another weekend of back-to-back action at home and on the road.

Boston faces the Nashville Predators Saturday afternoon on home ice before traveling to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Whalers Night at PNC Arena this Sunday.

Trading B’s-ness: Sweeney’s Promise

Don Sweeney is having his Peter Chiarelli moment.

The current Boston Bruins General Manager is at a crossroads similar in nature to that of his predecessor in Chiarelli– except this time it’s forward thinking.

No, not that forward thinking.

Sweeney’s masterplan has made up for Chiarelli’s deficits in both defense and cap management. Yet, for a team that’s tied with the Nashville Predators for allowing the fewest goals against (88), its offense is nothing spectacular– ranking 25th in goals for so far this season (94).

Through 34 games, the Bruins are 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 18-12-4 record and 40 points on the season despite numerous injuries.

At one point in time this season, five of Boston’s regular six defenders were injured.

In Chiarelli’s final years with the Bruins, defense became a problem. 

The 2013-14 President’s Trophy winning Bruins team amassed 117 points on the season with a plus-84 goal differential. The 2014-15 Bruins missed the postseason and had 93 points on the season and a plus-10 goal differential.

The franchise’s second ever President’s Trophy winning roster had Johnny Boychuk in his prime to rely on. The 2014-15 team did not, thanks to a trade made by Chiarelli prior to the start of the season.

Boychuk was traded out of salary cap constraints that could have been avoided had Chiarelli a) moved other assets or b) not signed those other assets to such inflated extensions in the first place.

Chiarelli promised he’d find a fix for the opening he created, but that never came to fruition as he was later fired in the 2015 offseason.

Upon Sweeney’s hiring, it was clear the Bruins needed a revival on the blue line.

In addition to that, Sweeney was walking into an organization that was needing to negotiate with then pending-RFA Dougie Hamilton.

Hamilton was coming off his entry-level contract and emerging as a prominent two-way defender with the offensive likes of Torey Krug, in addition to that of a more traditionally framed defender.

When Hamilton wanted out of Boston, Sweeney was looked at poorly for trading the RFA defender to the Calgary Flames in the midst of a foundation collapse in defense.

The problem was that the problem didn’t start then.

It worsened as a result of Chiarelli’s dealing of Boychuk, while Dennis Seidenberg got older and more susceptible to injury without anything in the pipeline to act as an adhesive bandage in a worst case scenario (Sweeney would later use a buyout on Seidenberg’s contract on June 30, 2016).

Sweeney’s Hamilton trade was meant to address the long-term scope, as Zach Senyshyn, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon were all selected with the 1st and 2nd round picks in the 2015 Draft the Flames gave the Bruins in return for adding Hamilton.

Though Forsbacka Karlsson has only emerged as far as the third line center in Boston for now, his chemistry alongside Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen is to be lauded with pleasure as those three forwards remain central to the core in a not-so-distant post-Patrice Bergeron era (Forsbacka Karlsson may end up centering the first or second line someday).

Senyshyn’s been seasoning in Providence as Sweeney brought in the Washington Capitals’ approach to “over-cooking” their prospects in the AHL before calling them up for a seamless transition to the NHL (though, in fairness, it remains to be seen where Senyshyn fits into the long-term plan, if he even makes it).

And Lauzon is near the top of the depth chart in defensive prospects within the organization alongside Urho Vaakanainen and Connor Clifton– if not number one.

Though the blue line is not of concern for Boston, when healthy, the depth of the team in the top-six forwards, as well as run-of-the-mill finds to play on the fourth line has come into question.

Sweeney must take an action to address the need for a winger to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line– something Sweeney aimed to bring in since he began his tenure with the Bruins as General Manager.

Again, scoring fell from the 2013-14 dominant team to Chiarelli’s missteps in 2014-15, so Sweeney dealt a struggling Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2015 Draft for a 1st round pick (Jakub Zboril), Colin Miller and Martin Jones.

Jones was flipped later that summer to the San Jose Sharks for a 2016 1st round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly. More recently, Miller was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft.

In the aftermath of the Lucic trade– and with a spot on the second line to fill– Sweeney signed 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs star, Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.800 million per season.

Beleskey set career-highs in assists (22) and points (37) in 80 games played in his first season in Boston (2015-16), then injuries cut his sophomore season with the Bruins to just eight points in 49 games.

In 2016-17, Beleskey had yet to score a point in 14 games with the B’s prior to being assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL). He was added as an afterthought turned salary cap balancing equation in the Rick Nash trade last season with the New York Rangers.

When Beleskey’s first season with Boston didn’t yield as much of a breakout as Sweeney expected, he signed David Backes to a five-year, $6.000 million AAV contract on July 1, 2016, expecting the forward to shift from center to right wing alongside Krejci.

In his first season with Boston, Backes had 17 goals and 21 assists (38 points) in 74 games played. He followed that up with 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) last season in 57 games while battling injury.

Though he has been plagued by injury the last two seasons, Backes  (3-5–8 totals in 29 games) has been relegated to the fourth line when DeBrusk is in the lineup.

Sweeney’s plan to let the kids takeover led to exceeded expectations last season, but with that comes an even higher benchmark for success set for this season. Anything less is a disappointment.

Add to that the expectation for a Cup in three years time from when Sweeney was hired. At least, that’s what Boston’s internal operations was calculating when the front office sat down with Sweeney to interview for his current job.

For a GM that was active in his first month on the job and laid out a plan to take the organization up to where it is now– what’s next?

Sweeney’s not in the hot seat from the standpoint about imminent job security, but rather, he’s being put to the test.

This season, of all seasons, matters that much more.

His track record at the trade deadline hasn’t had any staying power, save for an extra year of John-Michael Liles as a depth defender for 2016-17.

He doesn’t have to hit it out of the park with a trade if he truly believes in the youth movement, which is why the Bruins probably aren’t going to be in the market for acquiring the services of Artemi Panarin.

Then again, if DeBrusk is going to be out long term and head coach Bruce Cassidy can’t split up Donato, Forsbacka Karlsson and Heinen, then it’s going to be worth acquiring a top-six forward that’s a legitimate top-six forward.

Adding Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings would be like adding Rick Nash last season, except for the fact that the 33-year-old Carter is signed through the 2021-22 season at about $5.273 million per season.

If you even want to have a chance to potentially sit down with a guy like Panarin or pending-UFA Jeff Skinner in July, you can’t afford to chip away at your available spending money.

Unless Krejci or Backes is involved, that is.

Even still, Carter’s not set on playing anywhere outside of Los Angeles and might retire if he’s shipped elsewhere. Besides that,  he only has six goals and nine assists (15 points) in 35 games this season.

The only other recent rumors swirling around have been tied to Minnesota Wild forward– and Weymouth, Massachusetts native– Charlie Coyle and New York Rangers forward– and Boston native– Kevin Hayes.

Both Coyle and Hayes are 26-years-old with Coyle having a cap hit of $3.200 million through 2019-20 and Hayes as a pending-UFA this offseason at $5.175 million.

Minnesota’s in the hunt for a wild card spot currently in the Western Conference and sits 17th in the league table. The Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division, 21st in the league standings and falling.

Coyle has five goals and 10 assists (15 points) in 33 games. Though he has the same offensive production as Carter has with the Kings, Coyle is younger and in the midst of his prime, leaving room for potential– especially should he be placed on a line with Krejci and DeBrusk.

But Coyle (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) has only surpassed the 20-goal plateau once in his career (21 goals in 82 games, 2015-16).

Hayes has 9-18–27 totals in 33 games with New York so far this season. At 6-foot-5, 216 pounds, he’s had the hotter hands of the three potential trade targets.

He’s also only reached the 20-goal plateau once in his career (25 goals in 76 games last season), but never had a season below 36 points.

Both the Wild and the Rangers will have enough cap room at the deadline should Boston look to flip a player like Backes to fit either player comfortably on their payroll and still have something to give pending-RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Forsbacka Karlsson, Donato and Heinen in the offseason.

(Regardless, if there’s a team willing to take on Backes’ $6.000 million cap hit now as opposed to flipping him to the Arizona Coyotes later…)

Plus there’s the odd hold-out that the Bruins find themselves in conversation with one of the offseason’s biggest prizes like how they were finalists in the John Tavares arms race last summer.

Sweeney has a plethora of prospects to wager if– and only if– he can lop off one of the larger contracts on his books and land a legitimate top-six forward.

Can he do what Chiarelli failed to do in his final year with Boston and deliver on an as of yet unfulfilled promise?

Come to think of it, if he does acquire a top-six forward that can play with Krejci and leads to a Cup, then he does have a lot more in common with Chiarelli.

It’d just be more like when Chiarelli traded Dennis Wideman to the Florida Panthers in June 2010 for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

Halak blanks Habs at old home, B’s win, 4-0

Colby Cave (1-1–2 totals), Charlie McAvoy (0-2–2) and David Pastrnak (0-2–2) led the Boston Bruins and their offensive charge as Jaroslav Halak stopped all 22 shots he faced for the shutout in Boston’s, 4-0, victory against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

Joakim Nordstrom, David Krejci and Brad Marchand (PP) also had goals for the Bruins, while Halak (10-5-2 record, 2.27 goals against average, .929 save percentage in 19 games played) picked up the 22-save shutout win in the building he used to call home from 2006-10.

Halak picked up his third shutout of the season and went 56-34-7 (2.62 GAA, .919 SV%, 5 SO) in his career with the Canadiens.

Carey Price (13-9-4, 2.94 GAA, .901 SV% in 27 GP) will have to wait another day for his 300th career victory in a Habs sweater, as the Montreal netminder made 31 saves on 35 shots against for an .886 SV% in the loss.

The B’s improved to 5-0-0 in their last five road games against the Canadiens, dating back to Dec. 12, 2016 (Montreal is 0-3-2 in that span) and set a new franchise record in doing so for their longest regular season win streak versus Montreal (previous, 4-0-0 from Jan. 11-Dec. 20, 1941).

Boston improved to 18-12-4 (40 points) on the season and surpassed the Canadiens for 4th in the Atlantic Division and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, while Montreal fell to 17-12-5 (39 points) and 5th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins take on the Anaheim Ducks this Thursday at TD Garden, while Montreal ventures out to Denver, Colorado for a Wednesday night matchup with the Colorado Avalanche.

Bruce Cassidy made no changes to the Bruins lineup on Monday– save for the goaltender, starting Halak over Tuukka Rask (since Rask played on Sunday)– rolling with the same lines and defensive pairs as the last couple of games with Gemel Smith and Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches.

Smith and Lauzon remained out of the lineup alongside Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), Jake DeBrusk (concussion) and Kevan Miller (larynx) on Sunday with Bergeron nearing an expected full return to practice on Wednesday.

No. 37 in black-and-gold may return to the lineup in time for Saturday or Sunday’s action against Nashville or in Carolina, respectively.

Nordstom (5) scored the game’s first goal at 2:21 of the first period after the B’s third line worked the puck down low, around the boards and forced a quality backcheck to yield a Canadiens turnover in the attacking zone for David Backes to connect with Nordstrom.

Backes (5) and Cave (3) had the assists on the goal and Boston led, 1-0.

About half-a-minute later, Marchand caught Phillip Danault with a high-stick and was sent to the penalty box while the Habs went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Montreal’s power play entering the game on Sunday was 0/22 in the last seven games and did not convert on the skater advantage opportunity while Marchand was in the box.

The Bruins made the kill.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Noel Acciari sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty at 13:32 of the first period.

The Canadiens did not score on the ensuing power play and followed up with a minor infraction of their own at 16:56, when Danault tripped up Pastrnak.

Boston was unsuccessful on their first power play of the evening and went into the first intermission with the, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard and the advantage in shots on goal, 13-5.

Montreal led in blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (14-1) and hits (14-7) after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in takeaways (5-1) and face-off win percentage (60-40). The Canadiens were 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s were 0/1 in the first period.

Early in the second period, Montreal was guilty of too many men on the ice, so Canadiens head coach, Claude Julien, did the only logical thing to do– send your youngest (and perhaps fastest skater) to the box to serve the penalty and hope for a timely breakaway by the end of the penalty kill.

Things did not go as planned.

At 4:29 of the second period, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi emerged from the sin bin, the Canadiens couldn’t connect.

Instead, both teams continued a string of penalties through the middle frame of the game, with Pastrnak cutting a rut to the penalty box at 11:57 for sending the puck over the glass (Boston’s second automatic delay of game infraction of the night) and a pair of matching minors at 17:48 that sent Sean Kuraly and Kotkaniemi to the box.

Kuraly was handed a holding minor, while Kotkaniemi received a minor infraction for interference and the Bruins and Canadiens would play 4-on-4 for two minutes until just about the end of the second period.

In the final minute of the middle frame, Pastrnak worked the puck back to McAvoy as the Bruins defender worked the puck deep into the attacking zone.

As McAvoy was cruising into the zone, he sent a pass back to Cave in the slot whereby Cave (1) pocketed his first career National Hockey League goal in just his 16th career NHL game.

Cave’s goal was assisted by McAvoy (7) and Pastrnak (19) and gave the B’s a, 2-0, lead over the Habs at 19:34 of the second period.

As both teams entered their respective dressing rooms for the second intermission, Boston had doubled their lead on the scoreboard, 2-0, and their shots on goal from 13 in the first period to 26 shots after 40 minutes of play.

The Bruins led in shots on goal (26-12), takeaways (7-3) and face-off win% (53-47) after two periods, while Montreal led in blocked shots (14-7), giveaways (18-6) and hits (23-21).

The Habs were 0/3 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2 prior to the start of the third period.

A mere 46 seconds into the third period, Krejci (6) capitalized on a botched attempt at everything from Montreal to put the Bruins ahead, 3-0.

That’s right, everything was botched on the play leading up to Krejci’s goal.

First the Canadiens were slow-footed out of the gate to start the third period, then they were caught in a line change, which led to a Habs blue liner flying in, colliding and tumbling with Tomas Tatar in the low slow as Pastrnak and Marchand worked the puck to each other in the offensive zone.

Meanwhile, with Price in desperation and the puck finding its way to the Price’s right side, McAvoy found Krejci from the side of the goal to bury the puck in the twine.

McAvoy (8) had his second assist of the night on Krejci’s goal and the Bruins had a three-goal lead.

Montreal defender, Mike Reilly, roughed Pastrnak moments later and was assessed a minor penalty at 3:55 of the third period.

Late in the power play for Boston, the Canadiens had another circus clown act in front of their own goal as one of their defenders bumped Pastrnak while the young Bruins forward deked and sent a quick pass to Marchand.

With Pastrnak and one of Montreal’s own colliding with Price, Marchand (11) pocketed the puck in the de facto empty net for a, 4-0, lead and Boston’s fourth power play goal in the month of December.

Pastrnak (20) and Torey Krug (16) notched the assists on Marchand’s goal at 5:06.

At the final horn, the Bruins had beaten Montreal, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 35-22, in shots on goal.

The Canadiens finished the night leading in blocked shots (18-17), giveaways (24-11) and hits (46-32), while the B’s led in face-off win% (56-44).

Montreal went 0/3 on the power play, while Boston went 1/3 on the skater advantage.

As a result, the Habs are now 0/25 on the power play in their last eight games and 5/58 in their last 19.

Boston improved to 11-2-2 when scoring first this season and heads back home for a quick, two-game, homestand starting Thursday night against the red-hot Anaheim Ducks and ending with a Saturday matinee against the Nashville Predators.

The B’s head to PNC Arena on Sunday for a matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes on Whalers Night in Raleigh. The Hurricanes will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys in both teams’ final game before the league’s mandatory three-day Christmas break.

Eichel’s 4-point night lifts Sabres past B’s, 4-2

Jack Eichel (2-2–4 totals) and Jeff Skinner (2-0–2) led the Buffalo Sabres past the Boston Bruins, 4-2, at TD Garden Sunday evening.

Linus Ullmark (7-1-3 record, 2.94 goals against average, .915 save percentage in 12 games played) made 35 saves on 37 shots against for a .946 SV% in the win, wile Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-7-2, 2.57 GAA, .915 SV% in 17 GP) turned aside 23 out of 26 shots faced for an .885 SV% in the loss.

Boston fell to 17-12-4 (38 points) on the season and remained 5th place in the Atlantic Division as a result, while the Sabres jumped past the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic with a 20-9-5 (25 points) record.

Prior to Sunday evening’s matchup, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy provided updates on Jake DeBrusk, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Urho Vaakanainen.

DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup and out of practice, while Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular), Chara (knee, left MCL), Miller (larynx) and Vaakanainen (concussion) all skated Sunday morning.

Bergeron could join the full group for practice on Wednesday and may return sometime thereafter, while Chara is still a bit further off in his return to the lineup.

Cassidy kept the same lineup as the other night, meaning all of the injured B’s, plus Gemel Smith (healthy scratch) and Jeremy Lauzon (healthy scratch) would be watching the game from the press box.

Jaroslav Halak is likely to get the start in Montreal on Monday night with Rask having played Sunday against the Sabres.

Johan Larsson hooked David Pastrnak early in the first period, sending the Bruins on the power play at 3:47. Boston was not able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage and returned the favor for the Sabres about ten minutes later.

Joakim Nordstrom tripped up Conor Sheary at 13:33 of the first period and Buffalo went on the power play, but was not able to score as the B’s killed off Nordstrom’s infraction.

Moments later, Matt Hunwick tripped up Ryan Donato on a scoring opportunity, yielding the rare penalty shot for Donato.

Ullmark was unfazed by Donato’s deke and made the pad save as the Bruins forward approached the crease and lost an edge on the penalty shot.

After one period, the score remained tied, 0-0, and the Bruins held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 12-10.

Boston also led in blocked shots (3-2), while the Sabres led in takeaways (8-6), giveaways (4-2), hits (11-7) and face-off win percentage (56-44).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play entering the first intermission.

Early in the second period, Buffalo’s first line went right to work on jumping ahead with the game’s first goal.

Jack Eichel worked the puck behind the net and sent a drop pass back to Jeff Skinner (23) for the top-shelf snipe as Rask went from one side of the net to the other.

Eichel (30) and Rasmus Dahlin (15) earned the assists on Skinner’s goal at 3:18 of the second period and the Sabres led, 1-0.

A couple minutes later, Steven Kampfer (1) responded for Boston, accepting a pass from Nordstrom and sending a wrist shot through the roof behind Ullmark to tie the game, 1-1, at 5:18.

Nordstrom (2) and David Backes (4) had the primary and secondary assists on Kampfer’s first goal in 48 games (and first with the Bruins since March 3, 2011).

After being burned by another early whistle for the second game in a row, the Bruins went into the dressing room for the second intermission tied with the Sabres, 1-1, and leading in shots on goal, 24-19.

Both teams had five blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play, while Buffalo led in takeaways (16-13) and face-off win% (53-47). The B’s led in giveaways (8-7) and hits (19-17) after 40 minutes of play.

For the second period in a row, the Sabres got off to a hot start with their first line generating a rush that sent Eichel into the attacking zone without any pressure from Boston’s blue liners.

Eichel (13) subsequently sent a wrist shot, high, glove-side past the Bruins netminder to give Buffalo their second lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:43 of the third period.

Sam Reinhart (22) and Dahlin (16) had the assists on the goal.

Past the midway point in the third period, Brendan Guhle was penalized for holding Pastrnak, resulting in Boston’s second power play of the night at 11:08.

With 39 seconds remaining on the power play and due to a stoppage in play, Cassidy used his only timeout to try to organize a plan on an otherwise powerless power play.

Though the timeout did not yield a goal on the skater advantage, shortly after it ended, Torey Krug (3) pinched in from the point on a play set up by David Krejci and blasted a shot past Ullmark to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:21 of the third period.

Krejci (23) and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (2) had the assists on Krug’s goal.

A few minutes later, Skinner (24) scored his second goal of the night thanks, in part, to another ridiculous move Eichel made entering the zone to throw-off Charlie McAvoy, while catching Matt Grzelcyk and Colby Cave out of position for Skinner to scoop up the loose puck and score.

Eichel (31) and Reinhart (23) had the assists at 16:29.

With 2:02 remaining in regulation, Cassidy pulled Rask for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as the Bruins couldn’t will a puck past Ullmark as time ticked down.

Krug rocketed a slap shot that was blocked by Zemgus Girgensons and the puck bounced out of the B’s offensive zone.

While in the neutral zone, Reinhart took a stab at the empty net, but was unsuccessful. Finally, Eichel (14) floated one into the vacant four-by-six frame for his second goal of the game and made it, 4-2, Sabres.

Reinhart (24) and Girgensons (5) had the assists at 19:35.

At the final horn, Buffalo completed the, 4-2, victory on the road and handed Boston its second loss in-a-row. The Sabres improved to 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.

The Bruins finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-27), hits (27-23) and face-off win% (54-46), while Buffalo capped off the evening with the lead in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (11-10).

Boston finished the night 0/2 on the power play and last scored a power play goal in Ottawa on Dec. 9th, while Buffalo went 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins travel to Bell Centre for a Monday night matchup against the Montreal Canadiens before heading back home for a two-game homestand starting Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding Saturday against the Nashville Predators.

Boston wraps up their action before the Christmas break with a road game in Raleigh, North Carolina against the Carolina Hurricanes next Sunday.

Carolina will be wearing their Hartford Whalers throwback jerseys as part of Whalers Night at PNC Arena.

DeSmith stops a career-high 48 saves in 5-3 win for Pittsburgh

Casey DeSmith was the star of the game Friday night at PPG Paints Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins de facto starting netminder made 48 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Jake Guentzel had the game-winning goal midway through the third period after a pair of quick goals by the Bruins had tied the game, but the Penguins held strong with DeSmith leading the way from his crease.

DeSmith (10-5-4 record, 2.46 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 22 games played) made 48 saves on 51 shots against for a .941 SV% in the win, while Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-5-2, 2.40 GAA, .926 SV% in 18 GP) turned aside 23 shots on 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins have now dropped their last four games in Pittsburgh and snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss and remain 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 17-11-4 record (38 points).

Pittsburgh bounced back from a, 6-3, blowout loss at United Center on Wednesday– though the Pens haven’t won in Chicago since February 27, 2009 and last beat the Blackhawks in the regular season on March 30, 2014– and improved to 14-11-6 (34 points) on the season to move into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division– surpassing the New York Islanders for the last divisional playoff spot.

Kevan Miller (larynx) was back to practice on Thursday in a red no-contact jersey for the Bruins, while Jake DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup.

Noel Acciari was inserted back on the fourth line at center for Friday night’s matchup with the Penguins after missing the last three games since Dec. 6th as a healthy scratch.

Sean Kuraly slid over from centering the fourth line to playing left wing, having missed Thursday’s practice to undergo minor surgery for his broken nose (sustained in a fight with Ben Harpur in Ottawa last Sunday).

As a result, Gemel Smith joined Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches for Boston, with Miller (throat), DeBrusk (concussion) Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) still out of the lineup due to injury.

Bruce Cassidy kept the rest of the lines and defensive pairings unchanged from Boston’s three-game win streak entering Friday in Pittsburgh.

Brandon Carlo was guilty of the game’s first penalty– a minor infraction for holding– at 2:24 of the first period and the Penguins went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Pittsburgh did not convert on the skater advantage.

Later in the period, DeSmith robbed Boston forward, Brad Marchand, of an otherwise surefire goal as DeSmith got the glove on Marchand’s elevated backhand shot.

Late in the first period, Derek Grant (2) put one through Halak for the game’s first goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 17:48.

Matt Cullen (3) and Garrett Wilson (2) had the assists on Grant’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while trailing, 11-9, in shots on goal. Boston held onto the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (56-44), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (2-1) and hits (20-15).

Both teams had two blocked shots each through one period and the Pens were 0/1 on the power play.

Phil Kessel (13) went unchallenged for a goal early in the second period that made it, 2-0, Penguins after all five skaters for Boston collapsed into a small box their own zone.

Evgeni Malkin (24) and Zach Aston-Reese (3) had the assists on Kessel’s goal at 1:56 of the second period.

Almost midway through the period, Guentzel slashed David Backes and was sent to the penalty box at 9:00 of the middle frame.

The Bruins were unable to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but began to swing momentum into their favor as about a minute after the power play expired, Carlo (1) blasted a shot from the point past DeSmith to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half, 2-1.

Carlo’s goal was his first in 116 games– breaking the longest active goalless streak in the NHL– and notching his first tally since March 4, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils.

Chris Wagner (2) and Kuraly (4) had the assists on the goal at 11:53.

Late in the period, Guentzel cut a rut back into the sin bin for tripping David Pastrnak at 17:22 of the second period.

While on the power play, the Bruins turned the puck over and the ensuing result was costly as Aston-Reese (3) floated a shot past Halak to make it a two-goal game once again.

Pittsburgh led, 3-1, as Aston-Reese scored their first shorthanded goal of the season. For the Bruins, it was their fifth shorthanded goal against this season and yet another defensive breakdown in Friday night’s action.

Riley Sheahan (2) and Brian Dumoulin (9) were credited with the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal at 19:01, deflating any momentum the Bruins had gathered.

After 40 minutes of play, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, and Boston led in shots on goal, 29-18 (18-9 in the second period alone). The Pens held the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), giveaways (5-2) and hits (37-27) after two periods, while the B’s led in takeaways (4-2) and face-off win% (64-36).

Pittsburgh was still 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/2.

Boston opened the third period with a lot more pressure in their own zone than they exhibited in the first 40 minutes of action, which eventually led to a turnover-turned-goal almost midway through the period.

But first, after Charlie McAvoy jumped on a loose puck before it could exit the offensive zone, Wagner (3) received a pass and ripped a one-timer past DeSmith to bring the Bruins to within one goal and make it, 3-2.

McAvoy (6) and Kuraly (5) had the assists on Wagner’s goal at 7:08 of the third period.

A mere 52 seconds later, the B’s forced a turnover and exchanged it for a rush into the attacking zone that led to an initial shot from Pastrnak that rang the crossbar behind DeSmith.

With the puck bouncing back out of the crease and DeSmith well out of position, David Krejci (5) was able to secure just enough possession to get off a backhand shot of his own into the open twine, tying the game, 3-3.

Pastrnak (18) and Marchand (23) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 8:02.

Moments later, Guentzel (13) tipped in a shot from the point by Kris Letang and the Penguins led once again, 4-3. Letang (18) and Sidney Crosby (18) had the assists on Guentzel’s goal at 10:47 of the third period.

Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation.

Torey Krug fired a shot wide of the goal on the ensuing face-off in the offensive zone and the puck bounced off the end-boards with enough force to generate another chance in the low slot had Ryan Donato gotten there in time.

Instead, DeSmith was able to get to it first and covered the puck up for another face-off.

With 14 seconds left in the game, Boston used their only timeout to draw up a plan to tie the game once again, but it was to no avail.

At 19:54 of the third period, Aston-Reese (4) pocketed his second goal of the night on the empty net, with the assists to Crosby (19) and Jack Johnson (6)– making it, 5-3, Pittsburgh.

Upon the final horn, the Penguins beat the Bruins for the fourth time in-a-row at PPG Paints Arena.

The B’s outshot the Pens, 51-28, after 60 minutes, but couldn’t muster enough in the goal scoring department to outdo Pittsburgh.

The Penguins, in the meantime, led in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (6-3) and hits (52-35) after the action Friday night. The Bruins finished the night atop face-off win%, 61-39, and went 0/2 on the power play, while Pittsburgh finished 0/1.

With the win on Friday, Pittsburgh improved to 10-4-5 when scoring first this season. DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves, surpassing his previous career-high mark of 42 saves late in the third period.

Boston travels back home for a Sunday evening (5 p.m. ET puck drop) matchup at TD Garden with the Buffalo Sabres before traveling to Montreal for a square with the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

The Bruins return home after that for a two-game homestand– starting next Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding next Saturday in a matinee matchup with the Nashville Predators.

Sunday, Dec. 23rd, the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Bruins on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes will be wearing their throwback Hartford Whalers sweaters for the first time this season.