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With Kevan Miller doubtful to play on Wednesday night against the Montreal Canadiens because of an illness, fellow blue liner Adam McQuaid could be making his return to the Bruins lineup.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy did not completely rule out Miller, but said, “he’s very doubtful for tonight…but it doesn’t look good. Adam would go in, it’s looking that way, but let’s give it a few hours.”

McQuaid has been out since Oct. 19 – a span of 36 games – after suffering a broken right fibula while blocking a shot against the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden. The 31-year-old defenseman has appeared healthy for the better part of a month, but with Boston on an 18-3-4 run and the back end playing well, Cassidy was hesitant to make any changes to the group.

“It goes without saying,” McQuaid said of being anxious to get back into game action. “But it’s been good to watch how the guys have come together and you really feel that off the ice and practice days and stuff.

“I’m excited to hopefully have that opportunity to feel that in a game. You see it watching but it will be nice to be back on the bench and hopefully add to this run that guys have been on and continue to play well.”

Cassidy expects there to be some rust in McQuaid’s game, so he is preparing to be patient with the veteran D-man’s game.

“There’s going to be rust, it’s inevitable, it’s his first kick at the cat since his injury,” said Cassidy. “So probably for him mentally just playing through the physics part of it early on. We understand that, so we’ve just got to allow him to be himself and play.

“Hopefully he’s able to play his 1-on-1′s, close quickly in the D-zone, get the job done there. I think there will be some rust with the puck, he hasn’t been under a lot of pressure, practices have been very short for us.”

Should be play, McQuaid would start the game in Miller’s spot alongside Matt Grzelcyk on Boston’s third pairing. It is a duo that has some familiarity after having played together at various times through training camp.

“They’re both really good players, they’re both very responsible defensively,” said Grzelcyk. “I think if I just use my skating legs and if I’m close enough to support him, it will work best, that way he doesn’t feel lost out there or anything like that. It’s tough coming back after being out for a while.”

With the Bruins set to take on their rivals and the return of former coach Claude Julien, McQuaid expects there to be some added energy in the building – something that could be beneficial for him after having been sidelined for roughly three months.

“It’s usually always a pretty good atmosphere, pretty good energy…I’m sure it will have everybody going,” said McQuaid.

McQuaid played his first eight seasons under Julien and credited his former coach with helping to establish his place in the league.

“It will be different, for sure,” said McQuaid. “It will be my first time, most guys have been through it already. He’s obviously the one who gave me my opportunity and stuck with me through various ups and downs.

“I’m sure it will be different, but at the same time you’ll have to focus on the game when it comes time.”

Claude Returns

Former Bruins coach Claude Julien – the winningest coach in franchise history – will be back in Boston tonight for the first time since he was relieved of his duties last February.

“It was a little different. You come here as a home team coach and now you come here as a visitor, [it's] a little strange,” said Julien. “You don’t coach here 10 years without getting to know the people that work in the building and stuff like that, and I’ve always had good relationships with them. It will be nice to see them.

“But at the same time, it’s more important for me right now to remember what I’m here for, and I need to be as prepared as I’m asking my players to be prepared for this game.”

Julien, who spent 10 seasons with Boston and led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title in 2011, also had plenty of praise for the city and its fans.

“It’s a great city. People that come and visit the city love it. I liked it. I think as a family this is where our roots really grew,” said Julien. “I’m certainly not ashamed to say that this is a great sports town that supports its teams, and fans are great. So there’s nothing to dislike about this city and right now.”

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Brad Marchand knows he was not always the easiest person to deal with when he first entered the league. As a young player, there were plenty of times he needed to be reeled in as he tried to establish himself.

That’s where Claude Julien came in.

“He gave me an opportunity to play, dealt with me more than I think a lot of coaches would have, worked with me tirelessly,” Marchand said of the former Bruins coach. “Had plenty of conversations about how to act and how to be a good player, a good pro, how to learn the game and become a better player.

“He definitely gave me a huge opportunity and allowed me to grow into a better player.”

Across the Bruins dressing room, players shared similar stories regarding the impact Julien had on their careers. And that’s why it is sure to be a special moment when Julien – the Bruins’ all-time winningest coach – returns to Boston for the first time on Wednesday night when the B’s host his Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

“He’s the one that I was given the opportunity to play in the NHL,” said David Pastrnak. “We had a bunch of meetings in the time I was here…obviously have a lot of good memories. He spent so much time with this organization and has given a lot.”

Marchand credited Julien with helping him to become more of a dependable offensive force every night. The 29-year-old began his career in as a fourth-line grinder and has since blossomed into a two-time All-Star, who is well on his way to a third straight 35-goal season.

“You could go through a lot of different things, but the biggest thing he preached to me was how to be a good pro and how to be consistent,” said Marchand. “That’s one thing we talked about is consistency. And if you want to be in this league for a long time you have to be able to bring your best game every night or close to it. That was probably one of the biggest things I took away.”

Julien won 419 games over 10 seasons with Boston, twice leading the team to the Stanley Cup Final, including the club’s first title in 39 years in 2011. Overall, the Bruins made the playoffs seven times under Julien and captured the Presidents’ Trophy in 2014.

The Ontario native also won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year in 2009 and twice coached at the NHL All-Star Game during his time in Boston.

“He was here for a long time, did a lot of great things for this team, for the organization, for the community and for the fans,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who played under Julien for 10 seasons.

“He definitely should be recognized for that…he’s a great coach, a great person, taught me a lot about how to play the game the right way in certain situations. He’s just a great teacher.”

For Boston’s remaining championship core – which includes Marchand, Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Adam McQuaid – it will no doubt be a bit strange to see their former boss standing behind the visiting bench on Wednesday night.

“I’m sure there is going to be some emotion for them,” said current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who replaced Julien last February. “They won a Stanley Cup under Claude – there should be. I think there was a bit of that in Montreal in terms of the first time looking across the bench and seeing him behind a different group, and I would imagine there would be a little more tomorrow. Then, the game will kind of take care of itself, and off we go.

“There’s some great relationships developed between Claude with the guys that have played with him for a length of time, so you don’t forget about that.”

Cassidy, who was an assistant under Julien last season before taking over the reins, acknowledged that some of his predecessor’s philosophies remain in place, particularly on the defensive side of things.

“The biggest was probably the layers and D-zone,” said Cassidy. “I think there’s a lot of teams that go man-to-man nowadays in the NHL in D-zone. We haven’t changed, and we feel it’s worked very well for us to stay with our layers and our zone coverage. I would say that is probably the biggest thing because it has worked.”

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Greg Wyshynski, senior writer: Maybe it’s because I recently watched “I, Tonya,” but I’ve been thinking about how the Calder Trophy race is one whose winner has both on-ice achievement and aesthetics. Where the top candidates not only have the numbers, but also the style points.

To that end: New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal is Nancy Kerrigan in this season’s race. He’s a Canadian kid with a junior hockey pedigree, so the judges already love him. He’s a point-per-game player. I watched him tally his second five-point game of the season on Saturday, this time against the rival New York Rangers. He owns the highlight reel, scoring and creating goals with a flourish that other rookies in the competition simply don’t have. Like Kerrigan, there are times when it seems like Barzal was created in a lab in a test tube labeled “CALDER WINNER.”

And then we have Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser. He’s a Minnesota kid who played hockey at North Dakota. He doesn’t have Barzal’s points, but he’s the only rookie to crack 20 goals this season, with 22 through Sunday. He also doesn’t have Barzal’s highlight reel, unless you have an affinity for wicked shots on goal. He plays in Vancouver rather than in the northeastern United States, which is the hockey media equivalent of sewing your own sequins on your competition outfit.

But here’s why I put Tonya … er … Boeser ahead of Barzal right now: His 22 goals have come during a season in which his linemates were all sorts of injured: His center, Bo Horvat, hasn’t played since Dec. 5. Boeser plays top-line minutes against top-line defenses — there’s no John Tavares to attract the opponents’ top checking lines. He’s on pace to have one of the best goal-scoring rookie seasons of the past decade, even if that pace has slowed just a tad.

At this point, Boeser would get my vote for the Calder. So please, Brock, no need for a Tonya/Nancy sabotage plot. Even if, you know, it would be totally expected behavior in hockey were it to happen on the ice.

(Now, watch Charlie McAvoy play the role of Oksana Baiul and spoil this whole thing — right, Emily?)

Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: Defensemen rarely win the Calder Trophy. In the past 30 years, just five blueliners have been selected. (Aaron Ekblad, Tyler Myers, Barret Jackman, Bryan Berard and Brian Leetch, for you trivia nuts at home.)

The award usually goes to a precocious forward who puts up a bunch of points, foreshadowing a flashy career. Every once in a while, it goes to a goalie who stands on his head for his team. But defensemen? It’s not just that it’s harder to quantify success for D-men — it is — but it’s also a position that requires more development. It’s full of nuance and responsibility; defensemen just bloom later.

That’s why what 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy is doing in Boston is so impressive.

McAvoy leads all rookies in ice time (22:51), and it’s not really close. He skates with Zdeno Chara on the Bruins’ top pairing, meaning he’s assigned to the most dangerous lines in the league every night. And he’s handling it with grace. Watch a Boston game and you’ll see how smooth McAvoy is. He is rarely frazzled when he has the puck. He’s able to deliver big hits. But more important, he’s usually in the right spots.

He’s also a big part of Boston’s offense, tied for fifth on the team with 23 points (five goals, 18 assists). Since Victor Hedman will miss the All-Star Game because of injury, McAvoy has a strong case to be the Atlantic Division’s replacement. Heck, if NHL players were going to the Olympics this year, McAvoy would be a tough cut for Team USA.

McAvoy’s importance to the Bruins cannot be understated. This is a team that is attempting to pull off a delicate balancing act: rebuilding while also somehow contending. McAvoy is the bridge between now and the future.

As NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty pointed out, McAvoy played 45 games last year between Boston University, the AHL and his playoff cameo with the Bruins. It was the most games he’d ever played in a season. As this season passes the halfway mark, we’ll see if McAvoy can keep pace. If he does, he unequivocally deserves this award.

Chris Peters: If the vote were today, I don’t think there’s any doubt who would be the top three vote-getters. McAvoy has a great case, especially as laid out by Emily. As worthy as he is, however, it’s going to be hard for him to collect the necessary votes against a pair of forwards putting up the kind of numbers Boeser and Barzal are right now.

The debate between these guys could go back and forth for hours, and I’ll be doing a deeper dive into the rookie race very soon. For some additional context on how special their seasons have been to this point — with Barzal at 44 games played and Boeser at 42 — their production at this point in the season has them in a pretty exclusive class. According to hockey-reference.com’s Play Index, only three rookies have produced more points through their team’s first 44 games or fewer since 2005-06: Alex Ovechkin (58), Sidney Crosby (49) and Evgeni Malkin (45). As Greg noted above, Barzal has 44 points and Boeser has 40.

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The Bruins made sure to kick off their season series against Montreal with a bang on Saturday night.

David Krejci tied the game late in the second period, before Brad Marchand scored in the fourth round of the shootout to send Boston to a 4-3 victory over the rival Canadiens at the Bell Centre. The win extended the Bruins’ points streak to 12 games (9-0-3) and their overall record since Nov. 16 to 18-3-3.

“We seem to be able to show that character. We seem to have a lot of it in this room,” said Marchand, who also potted his 18th goal of the season in the first period. “It was great to see the guys battle back, especially having a bit of a break there – we didn’t have a great game. But we dug down and capitalized when it mattered. Good to get the two points.”

Boston twice came back from one-goal deficits to tie the game. After Max Pacioretty opened the scoring just 3:22 into the first, Marchand responded with a power-play goal off a slick feed from Patrice Bergeron with 2:20 remaining in the opening frame.

“We didn’t have our game early in terms of managing the puck. I think we were still on that little bit of a break mode where you’re not bearing down and not hockey strong yet,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “But we got better at that as the game went on. But we did enough early to not take ourselves out of the game.”

Jake DeBrusk later converted on a breakaway with a snipe over the blocker of Carey Price at 2:55 of the second. But Montreal answered with two goals (from Nicolas Deslauriers and Alex Galchenyuk) just 3:06 apart to regain the lead, 3-2, midway through the period.

But the Bruins stormed back once again. With 2:18 to go in the second, David Krejci struck for his seventh of the year when he picked up a bouncing puck in the slot and snapped one by Price to knot things at 3.

“We were trailing a couple times tonight. Against Montreal in Montreal, it’s tough to come back from,” said DeBrusk. “But we have great leadership with our older guys and the veterans here really show us the way and how to get back. It was a team effort. Lots of guys did things to help us win tonight.”

Montreal nearly ended things with some 20 seconds remaining in overtime, but stellar sprawling saves from Tuukka Rask and Torey Krug kept the Bruins alive. As time ticked away, Krug swatted away a loose puck in the crease, before Rask dived through the blue paint to deny Tomas Plekanec’s follow-up attempt.

“We got better throughout the 60 minutes,” said Rask, who extended his personal points streak to 14 games (12-0-2). “It wasn’t our best start, best first period. But we hung in there…I don’t think anyone was rattled. We were just trying to play our game.”

More observations from the Bruins’ 4-3 shootout win over the Canadiens:

Bruins send thoughts to Danault: In a frightening scene late in the second period, Montreal forward Phillip Danault was struck in the head with a Zdeno Chara slapshot. Danault was down on the ice for several minutes before being stretchered off and transported to a local hospital, where the Canadiens said he was awake and moving.

With 1:37 remaining in the second, the teams retreated to the dressing rooms and played the rest of the frame following the intermission.

“I was hoping that he was not hurt,” said Chara. “That’s obviously the first thought that goes through my mind…it does happen, it’s just very unfortunate. We all get hit somewhere in the upper body. On that particular play I was getting a pass up the boards and the puck probably was bouncing a little bit, so very unfortunate.

“You don’t ever want to see anyone get hit in the head area or the neck area and being carried off the ice. Hopefully Phillip will have a good recovery…wishing him the best and full recovery.”

Chara was among the last people to leave the ice as he waited until Danault was transported to wish him well.

“I wanted to be there. I wanted to talk to him. I felt bad, obviously, that he got hit,” added Chara. “I wanted to make sure he was OK and he responded…he was talking to me and responded, so that made me feel better that he responded and he was OK…I was glad he was doing OK.”

DeBrusk makes most of Montreal debut: DeBrusk took full advantage of his first trip to the Bell Centre for Bruins-Habs. The rookie winger potted a filthy breakaway tally early in the second period to give Boston a 2-1 lead, before notching another goal in the second round of the shootout.

“It’s pretty special. [Carey Price is] one of the best goaltenders in the game. You don’t get chances like that very often,” said DeBrusk. “Obviously a shootout’s a shootout, but it was nice to see those go in. It was one of those things that he’s a pretty intimidating goalie to play against and you’ve got to bring your best.

“Obviously I got lucky tonight and I think that it was just how the game was going….two breakaways and something that I’ll never forget.”

Bruins downplay showdown with Julien: While Saturday night’s matchup marked the first between the Bruins and former coach Claude Julien, the players chose to focus more on what was happening on the ice than the storylines off of it.

“I was playing against the Montreal Canadiens, not against Claude,” said Chara. “We all know that these games are big games and they mean a lot.”

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The Boston Bruins and the Boston Bruins Foundation announced today, January 11, the first annual Patrice Bergeron & 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Pucks and Paddles, which will be held at Royale Boston (279 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116) on Thursday, February 15 from 4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. The tournament will feature players from the active Boston Bruins roster, on-air personalities from 98.5 The Sports Hub, and patients from Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

The event will feature a single elimination tournament featuring Bruins players, on air talent and the winning bidders. The rounds will advance to a championship game featuring the final two teams, with a winning tandem being crowned the Patrice Bergeron & 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Pucks and Paddles champions. In addition, the four best Bruins ping pong players will participate in a separate informal singles competition to demonstrate their talents to the crowd. All attendees upon arrival will have the opportunity to purchase an entry into a raffle to participate in additional ping pong games against select players.

Fans have the opportunity to bid on the opportunity to play doubles ping pong with the celebrity of their choice. Fans can place their bids by visiting bruinsauctions.org.

Fans can purchase tickets for both the VIP and General Admission sessions by visiting bostonbruins.com/pingpong.

VIP attendees will enjoy a pre-event meet & greet with members of the team. When purchasing VIP tickets, guests will either choose to be a part of the Gold VIP session featuring Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Torey Krug and David Krejci or the Black VIP session featuring Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand, David Backes, and David Pastrnak .

Tickets will be available to the general public on January 11. Prices are as follows:

VIP: $200 – includes admission to autograph session

GA: $50 – entrance into the event (no player access)

Bruins season ticket holders will have exclusive early access to purchase tickets on January 10 and be able to purchase tickets at a discounted rate:

VIP: $175 – includes admission to autograph session

GA: $40 – entrance into the event

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The National Hockey League announced today, ‪January 10, that Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand has been named to the 2018 NHL All-Star team. This is the second straight All-Star Game selection for Marchand. For the full 2018 All-Star rosters, visit NHL.com.

Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring this season with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 32 games, to go along with 35 penalty minutes and a plus-19 rating. He is among the league leaders in several categories, including points per game (4th), goals per game (8th) and plus/minus (9th). He has also recorded at least one point in 23 of his 32 appearances this season.

In 2016-17, Marchand was named an NHL First-Team All-Star after establishing career-highs in goals (39), assists (46) and points (85), while adding 81 penalty minutes and a plus-18 rating in 80 games. His 39 goals were tied for fourth-most in the NHL and were the most by a Bruins player since Glen Murray (44) in 2002-03.

Since 2010-11 – his first full NHL season with the Bruins – Marchand leads the league in plus/minus (plus-178) and shorthanded goals (23). For his career, the 5-foot-9, 181-pound forward has played in 566 NHL games – all with the Bruins – tallying 209 goals and 205 assists for 414 points with 550 penalty minutes.

Marchand has also appeared in 72 career postseason games with the Black and Gold, compiling 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points with 87 penalty minutes. During the Bruins’ Stanley Cup Championship run in 2011, Marchand potted 11 goals – second-most in the postseason behind teammate David Krejci (12).

The 29-year-old Halifax, Nova Scotia native was originally selected by the Bruins in the third round (71st overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

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As a head coach in the American Hockey League, he gets paid to deal with a lineup in flux. This year, however, the first-year bench boss has had to balance a lineup with an unseemly amount of turmoil.

With Boston ravaged by injuries early this season, a number of key players were summoned from Providence. Among them were Danton Heinen, last spring’s postseason points leader; Kenny Agostino, last season’s AHL MVP; Matt Grzelcyk, one of the P-Bruins top blue liners; as well as Peter Cehlarik and Jordan Szwarz, among Providence’s top scorers a season ago.

But through it all, Leach and the P-Bruins – much like their big brothers to the north – have managed to stay afloat, riding a blend of youth and experience to the top of the Atlantic Division standings, 2 points clear of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as the midway point of the season approaches.

“It is a challenge in that the lineup is different every night,” said Leach, 38, who was recently named the Atlantic Division coach for the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic. “I think we try to be as open as possible with the guys with regards to the ups and downs of the call ups. I think it is important to kind of acknowledge that these things happen, and that guys are going to be in different spots…they have kind of bought into the collective group, and I think that is the way we have tried to spin it with the interchanging parts that we have had really since the start of the season.

“They really like to play with one another, so they really don’t get discouraged. They don’t get down; they just seem to be positive and know that there is a way to get things done, and for the most part, they have.”

Despite a whopping 56 roster transactions since Oct. 6, Providence reeled off a run of eight straight wins beginning at the end of November, a stretch that has helped propel the P-Bruins into the top spot in their division.

“I think we’re used to it, plugging guys in, whether it’s injuries down here or injuries up there,” said longtime Providence captain Tommy Cross, who was recalled to Boston last spring during the B’s postseason series with Ottawa. “When there’s the up-and-down we’re watching guys go up to Boston and do a good job. Then if they come back we’re happy to have them. It’s just good to see the movement and good to see both teams playing well.”

Cross credited strong goaltending – from Zane McIntyre and All-Star Jordan Binnington, who is on lone from the St. Louis organization – as well as some timely scoring as the biggest reasons for the P-Bruins success to this point. Austin Czarnik, who paces the team with 32 points (9 goals, 23 assists), leads Providence up front and was recently named to the AHL All-Star Classic.

“We’ve had a good start, our record is in a good spot right now. I think we’ve just played hard,” said Cross. “We’ve found ways to win a lot of games we’ve played just OK. Some of it’s been goaltending where they’ve stolen a couple games for us – and some timely goals. We talked about it this morning, we’re just focused on playing really good hockey and we know if we do that we’ll get even more wins.”

The 28-year-old blue liner also pointed to Leach, who was an assistant under Kevin Dean last season before taking over the head job when Dean was added to Bruce Cassidy’s staff in Boston over the summer.

“It’s been some new energy and a lot of carryover from Butch and Deano, obviously playing the same system as Boston,” said Cross. “A lot of players up and down, but he’s brought some new energy and some new concepts.”

Leach, meanwhile, deflected any credit, instead heaping praise on Cross and the rest of the P-Bruins veteran core. With a laundry list of high-profile prospects taking up ice time – the likes of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Rob O’Gara, Peter Cehlarik, and now Anders Bjork are playing heavy minutes – Leach acknowledged it can be a difficult balance for the more experienced players on the roster.

“They set the tone, and also in saying that, the kids, obviously, are here to develop and sometimes they play over those veterans. I can’t say enough about the way our veterans handle that, because it is not an easy thing, especially as a professional athlete,” said Leach. “You don’t want to lose your job anyways – but especially give up your opportunity for a younger kid, but our guys recognize that this is obviously a developmental league.

“They are here for many different reasons, and they are able to handle it in a professional way that is very beneficial for our group, for our kids, and for our organization…humans are humans, and sometimes there is good and bad, but I think it is a really nice mix, and you are seeing benefits on both sides.”

For Boston’s young talent, there is plenty of opportunity to act as sponges, as they collect invaluable experience and learn what it means to be a professional hockey player, both on and off the ice.

“We have a good group of young guys, but the older guys, our captain Tommy Cross and everyone else, they’re the ones who are kind of pulling the train and taking the young guys under their wings,” said Forsbacka Karlsson, who is third on the team in scoring with 24 points in 35 games. “All respect to those guys, they’re doing a great job.”

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Despite a thrilling four-goal outburst in the second period that propelled the Bruins to a two-goal lead, Boston headed into their bye week with a 6-5 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Evgeni Malkin potted his second goal of the night at 2:51 of the extra session, marking a sour – albeit respectable – end to the B’s first half, as they head into their five-day break riding an 11-game points streak.

“We got the start that we wanted, we got that first goal. But then we got away from our game and they took it to us,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We know they’re a good team, especially on the power play. We didn’t go a good job on the penalty kill. We got back, the second period was a great period and third was up and down, we could have done some better things.

“But they’re a good team, they’re good offensively and there’s some breakdowns that were uncharacteristic of us lately, but we stuck with it and got a point out of it. Obviously we know we can be a lot better.”

After the four-goal barrage during the second, which included tallies from Brad Marchand, Noel Acciari, David Pastrnak, and David Backes, the Bruins appeared poised to pull away for another convincing victory as they opened up a 5-3 advantage. But Pittsburgh was not interested in going down quietly.

With 3.6 seconds to go in the middle frame, Malkin struck for his first of the game and the Penguins’ second power-play tally of the night to get back within a goal. It was not quite a dagger, but it was certainly a damaging blow, as Pittsburgh came out with plenty of momentum in the third and tied the game, 5-5, on Riley Sheahan’s tally just 2:54 into the period.

“I imagine it gave them more life than sucked life out of us. We still had a lead, we came from two down. But I think it gave them some pop going into the third and it showed,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “You don’t want to give those up. We had two opportunities to clear, that’s the unfortunate part. But that’s been a bit of an Achilles’ heel – our PK’s been terrific all year, the one area that we need to sure up is our clears and it got us there.”

Boston had a golden chance to re-gain the lead when Marchand was awarded a penalty shot with 1:01 to go in regulation. Marchand nearly sneaked a backhander through Matt Murray, but the netminder – who had replaced Jarry following the Bruins’ fifth goal – made the stop, as he did on all six shots he faced in relief.

“When I pulled to my backhand it got stuck in the snow a little bit. There was room there, I just missed it,” said Marchand, who had a goal and an assist. “Back-and-forth game. We didn’t have the start that we wanted, but we bounced back. Gave away a point there, but three out of four on a back-to-back is not bad and now we have to make sure we continue after the break.”

Boston’s five-goal output marked the fourth straight game and fifth time in the last six that it has scored at least five. Four of the goals came within a 9:50 span of the second period.

After Marchand’s goal brought the Bruins back within a goal at 7:18, Acciari struck just 60 seconds later when a Brandon Carlo shot tipped off his chest to tie the game at 3. Pastrnak followed up with his marker just under four minutes later to put Boston ahead, before Backes doubled the lead with 2:52 remaining in the third.

“Ebbs and flows I guess,” said Cassidy. “It seemed like we had pockets of really good hockey. We had pockets where we just lost focus and didn’t look like the team I’m used to seeing every night, in terms of how we played, respect of the game, manage pucks and decisions on line changes – right to the bitter end.

“At the end of the day, we get a point out of it, so you look at the positives, against a good hockey club. But it looked like we were gonna do better than that.”

Bergeron Stitched Up

After taking a Kris Letang shot to the inside of his right knee, Patrice Bergeron needed assistance as he hobbled down the tunnel to the dressing room in the closing seconds of the first period. But the centerman, fresh off a four-goal, five-point night against the Hurricanes, escaped any major damage and returned for the second

Bergeron said he felt more and more stable on the knee as the final two periods progressed. X-rays taken during the first intermission were negative, though he did require a few stitches following the game.

“It didn’t feel good. It was one of those that hit where there was no padding and it was a pretty good shot,” said Bergeron, who still managed to play over 18 minutes. “It definitely stings. We just wanted to make sure there was nothing – X-rays were negative, nothing’s broken. I needed stitches there.

“I was trying to get that going and we decided to just do them after the game so that I could come back for the second. It was good that I had the intermission to kind of reset.”

His return was certainly appreciated by his teammates.

“He’s a warrior. Got to give that guy a lot of credit, he’ll play through anything. We’ve seen it plenty of times before,” said Marchand. “He’s the kind of guy you want to follow and that’s why we’re good because we have that leadership. He’s an incredible player to watch and learn from and we’re lucky to have him.”

Rask Streak Continues

Tuukka Rask (29 saves) extended his career-high points streak to 13 games (11-0-2) with the overtime setback. But Boston’s ace netminder was far from pleased with his performance, as the six goals allowed were a season high.

“I was [bad] all game, all night. I felt like [crap] and didn’t see the puck,” said Rask. “Wasn’t sharp. Weak goals…one of those days. Not feeling as sharp as usual. Against a team like this that’s going to create some scoring chances, probably not ideal.”

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The Bruins are looking forward to their league-mandated, five-day bye week. But they know they have some business to take care of tonight in Pittsburgh before they get to settle in for some much-needed R&R.

“We have five days off after this, leaving on a high note – you don’t want to be thinking about a game that you let slip away for the next five days,” Riley Nash said following an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “Just sticking with it, doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing well, all the lines have been playing hard.”

The Black & Gold will be attempting to extend their points streak (8-0-2) to 11 games when they take the ice against the Penguins on Sunday night. But the players don’t seem worried about the bye week throwing a wrench into their torrid stretch.

“I think everyone needs the rest. You can look at it anyway you want,” said Nash, who tallied his fifth goal of the season in the B’s 7-1 win over Carolina on Saturday night. “If a team is struggling, it comes at a good time, if you’re doing well it comes at a bad time. It’s just the way you look at it. All in all, I think we can keep it up.

“Over the Christmas break we obviously came back and still played good hockey. I think we’ve shown that after a couple days off we can do it.”

The bye week will be the second of three extended breaks for the Bruins within a month’s span. Boston also had three days off for the holiday break and will have three more at the All-Star break later this month (Jan. 26-28).

“It’s always good to get rest in the middle of the year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s going to be the second of three in a short period of time. I think for me, it they’re spaced out a little better it’s probably more effective for the players. But it is what it is.

“We’re going to get on feeling good about our game. That’s the good news. And hopefully come back re-energized because we’ve got a lot of hockey. We’re a little behind with our schedule.

“Again, hopefully the guys do take it for what it’s worth and come back ready to go.”

Opposing View

Boston took the first matchup with the Penguins the day after Thanksgiving with a 4-3 victory at TD Garden. David Pastrnak potted the winner five minutes into the third on a breakaway.

Pittsburgh has been up and down since that meeting, posting a 10-9-0 record. The Pens are 5-5-0 over their last 10 and sit 1 point behind Carolina for the East’s second wild card spot.

Cassidy noted the two-time defending champions’ potent special teams as the focus for the B’s this evening. Pittsburgh is first in the league on the power play (25.8%) and 11th on the penalty kill (82.1%).

“Very good special teams. You think of their power play all the time, but their penalty kill is pretty good too,” said Cassidy. “If you can keep it to a 5-on-5 game it plays into our benefit because I think we’re very strong there, our special teams are good as well.

“We’re not going to shy away from that. I think that would be more to their strengths, so hopefully we have the discipline to stay out of the box, check with our feet, good sticks and see where it leads us.”

Question Mark Up Front

Bruce Cassidy said there is one question mark among the forward group, which will be a game-time decision. Cassidy did not specify which player he was referring to, but Ryan Spooner missed the second half of Saturday night’s third period.

“He went off. He missed probably the last 10 minutes. I have no update. I don’t know if I would keep him out of the lineup tomorrow,” Cassidy said following the win over the Hurricanes.

Pasta Snaps Skid

David Pastrnak snapped his 10-game scoreless streak on Saturday night with a one-time power-play blast off a feed from Patrice Bergeron. The 21-year-old winger also notched two assists.

“Obviously it’s nice,” said Pastrnak. “It was a good PP and good battles there and a nice play by Bergy, so it felt nice to get it in…I wasn’t thinking about it until you guys told me – I had no idea. Obviously it’s been a while, but those things happen and it’s normal. It was a lot of help that we were playing really good.”