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With an impressive first half of the season in the books, three Bruins forwards are being recognized for their performances on the ice. Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara were all included on the Professional Hockey Writers Association’s Midseason Awards list announced on Friday. The awards, which included the eight traditional end-of-season honors and two new awards, were voted on by more than 150 writers and broadcasters and 2,000 fans.

Bergeron finished first in voting for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game, in front of Sean Couturier of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar. Bergeron has already won the award four times during his career, claiming it in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. If he earns the honor again, he will break his tie with former Montreal Canadiens forward Bob Gainey to become the first player in NHL history to win it five times.

The 14-year veteran is having yet another stellar season both offensively and defensively. Bergeron has registered 20 goals and 22 assists for 42 points in 42 games this season while winning 57.4% of his faceoffs and accumulating 39 takeaways.

The Calder Trophy, awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition, featured rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy as a finalist. The Long Beach, New York native finished third in voting behind New York Islanders forward Mathew Barzal and Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser. McAvoy has been turning heads in his first season, tallying five goals and 20 assists for 25 points through his first 45 games, while racking up 102 hits and 56 blocked shots. He will look to become the first Bruin to win the Calder since goaltender Andrew Raycroft did so in the 2003-2004 season.

One of the new honors featured on the list was the Rod Langway Award, given to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara finished second in voting behind Los Angeles King defenseman Drew Doughty and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. With 1,397 games under his belt through nearly 20 seasons, Chara continues to shut down his opponents’ top threats, blocking 83 shots and throwing 97 hits in 47 games this season. His +25 rating is second in the NHL behind only Vegas Golden Knights forward William Karlsson’s +26.

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Brad Marchand spoke on Thursday morning for the first time since the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced his five-game suspension for elbowing New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson in Boston on Tuesday night.

The Bruins winger addressed a large media contingent following Boston’s pregame skate at the Canadian Tire Centre ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Ottawa Senators.

“I’ve been trying to play a certain way for a while now, and it was never my intent to get into a situation like this, to injure Marcus, so hopefully he has a full healthy recovery very quickly,” said Marchand. “I let my teammates down – I know that – and I let the organization down. I have to be better, there’s no question.

“I respect the league’s decision on the matter. They’re in the right to make the decisions that they do, and I’m going to live with it.”

The suspension, which was levied on Wednesday night, marks the eighth time Marchand has been disciplined by the NHL (six suspensions, two fines) in his career. This one comes at a time during which the Bruins have collected points in 17 straight games. Marchand is also leading the league in scoring this month with 18 points (6 goals, 12 assists).

“The last thing I want to do is do anything to hurt the team, and that’s obviously what I’ve done here. It wasn’t what I was trying to do,” said Marchand. “We have a great team, and they’re going to battle hard and do everything they can to win the games. I’ll be there rooting them on, but I put my team in a disadvantage at the end, and I feel very bad about that.”

Marchand is allowed to participate in this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tampa and said he will still attend. It is the 29-year-old’s second consecutive selection.

“I’m going to go. I’m very proud of that opportunity,” said Marchand. “It is something I’ve worked very hard for and never thought I’d have the opportunity to do, so it’s something I’m very proud about, and I’m going to go and enjoy every second of it.”

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has had a relationship with Marchand since the winger’s first professional season in Providence, when Cassidy was then an assistant with the P-Bruins. Cassidy chatted with Marchand during Thursday’s morning skate and encouraged him to think about what he would like his legacy to be.

“The thing with Brad is I’ve known him since he was a first-year player, so I know him as a person,” said Cassidy. “That’s what sometimes has disappointed me, that gets lost. I hear opinions out there, they don’t know him as a teammate, as a father, the work he puts in to be a better player. After games he’s always with children in the family room signing something – he’s just a great person with a big heart.

“But Brad does have to take responsibility for his actions, he’s aware of that. He’ll sit his five games and we’ll welcome him back.”

Despite this latest misstep, Marchand believes he has made progress in buttoning up his on-ice actions.

“Obviously, I want to be known as a good player. I’ve worked very hard to become a decent player in this league, and things like this obviously hinder that,” said Marchand. “It’s something that I will continue to work on and be better at, but [Cassidy] is not wrong. I think that some things behind the scenes get lost when things like this happen, but I think that I have good teammates and the organization, my family and friends, they know what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to be and how much I care about this team, organization, the guys in the room.

“That’s not going to change. Obviously, I am going to be better in areas. I’m going to continue to work on it, but it’s just another step in the road.”

With Marchand out of the lineup, Anders Bjork was recalled from Providence on an emergency basis on Wednesday night. Bjork played in eight games for the P-Bruins after being assigned on Jan. 3 and notched two goal and two assists. The 21-year-old, who has four goals and eight assists in 28 games with Boston this season, will likely start in Marchand’s spot alongside Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak against the Senators.

“He’s played well. He started offensively very well,” Cassidy said of Bjork’s play in Providence. “What we’re trying to get out of Anders is play a little bit more straight line, understanding when he can make plays, when he’s got to manage the puck better. That was the biggest issue for him coming to this level, where the open ice is, how to get there.

“He’s been working on that. We’ll see where he’s at. He played very well for us earlier this year. We’re confident he can do the job. We’re not asking anyone to replaced Brad – that would be unfair – but just to go play his game and contribute.”

 

Bjork is hoping to make the most of his chance to play on what has been the hottest line in hockey for the better part of two months.

“It’s exciting. It’s obviously a great opportunity, tons of players would die to be in my position right now,” said Bjork. “I’ve just got to stay focused and make the most of it, do what I can to keep up with the line and be a positive impact.”

Acciari Out, Too

In addition to the absences of Marchand and Charlie McAvoy (ablation procedure), Boston will also be without Noel Acciari on Thursday night as the winger battles a lower-body injury. Frank Vatrano will slide into his place on the fourth line.

“Hopefully the All-Star Break will do him some good,” said Cassidy. “And then we’ll see where he’s at on Tuesday against Anaheim.”

Pushing Through

As they did during the season’s first six weeks when they were beset by an unseemly amount of injuries, the Bruins will have to battle through some adversity as they look to extend their points streak to 18 games.

“We’ve had to find ways and simplify our game, make it blue collar and do what we do best,” said Backes. “This is no different of a scenario than if [Marchand's] hurt or suspended. Same with Charlie being out. Hopefully it’s short term and we’re going to have to patch holes, different guys step up to be the hero each night.

“Those guys are significant players, but we’ve done it before and we’ll have to do it again. Every team’s got injuries this time of year or guys out.”

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Matt Grzelcyk knows perhaps better than anyone in the Bruins dressing room what the New England Patriots mean to the region. The 24-year-old blue liner grew up in Charlestown as a Patriots fan and has watched firsthand the team’s dominant run of five Super Bowl titles over the last 17 seasons.

“I can remember when they won their first Super Bowl,” said Grzelcyk. “Obviously they’ve been unbelievable, this stretch they’ve gone on is insane. There’s a reason why they’re so good, you can see how they are on the sidelines with each other, how passionate they are.

“It gives us a little bit of motivation to try to keep up with them. It’s awesome to see and it’s been great to be a part of it and see it firsthand growing up in Boston.”

Grzelcyk was one of several Bruins who attended the Pats’ thrilling 24-20, comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Also in attendance were Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Paul Postma, and Tuukka Rask.

“It’s nice to be a Patriots fan the last few years, a great day yesterday,” said David Krejci. “A few guys went to the game so I’m sure they had a blast. We do have lots of Americans on the team, they have their own team, but playing here I think you have to become a Patriots fan, they always win. It’s good to be a Boston fan.”

The Pats’ victory clinched a spot in their eighth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era, an unprecedented run of success that has highlighted the golden age of Boston sports.

“You can’t help but get caught up in it. I’ve been in New England 10 years…you can see how teams continually can’t put the Patriots way…they’re in people’s heads,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who visited Patriots training camp this past summer and met with owner Robert Kraft.

“It’s an amazing quality that this team has, the culture that they’ve created, their identity. We’d love to be that, where we’re coming at you, we’re coming at you and it doesn’t matter what happens right until the bitter end. We’ll see where that goes.

“You’ve got to be champions to do that, there’s guys in this locker room that were and would like to again. The younger guys that haven’t hopefully that’s one of the things that they embrace.”

Grzelcyk, one of the Bruins’ five rookies, believes the Patriots provide plenty of lessons he and his fellow youngsters can draw from.

“I think they’re just really good at not overcomplicating things,” said Grzelcyk. “The motto is do your job, just very simple, just go out there and do what’s asked of you. I think that’s something that’s stuck with us. We’re trying to take it one game at a time right now and apply that to our game.”

One of the other special things about Boston sports is the camaraderie between all the teams in town. Last spring, Patriots safety Patrick Chung joined the B’s for a skate at the end of practice and earlier this month Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Rex Burkhead, Jordan Richards, Shea McClellin, and Geneo Grissom attended the B’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cooks, who purchased a Patrice Bergeron jersey before the game, then joined his teammates for a visit with Boston’s alternate captain following his four-goal outburst in the 7-1 win over the ‘Canes.

In addition to Cassidy’s visit to training camp, a group of Bruins, which included Rask, Krug, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Nash, Brandon Carlo, and Tim Schaller, took in a Patriots practice earlier this fall.

“Year after year, they’ve been really good. Obviously Tom Brady has been around a long time and they have a good coach. It’s fun to watch,” said Krejci. “I picked good years to be playing for Boston and becoming a Patriots fan…once our games are done we try to support the other teams as well.”

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Coming into the season, the Boston Bruins appeared to meet all the qualifications of a team whose window to win a Stanley Cup was closed.

The B’s looked as if they would be heavily reliant on stars who were either in the latter years of their prime or past it; they’d made questionable trades of young stars and had a goalie coming off back-to-back mediocre seasons.

Instead, Boston is not only competitive, but they’re also making a case as the NHL’s second-most-dangerous team behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boston ranks No. 3 in team Corsi for percentage, second in even-strength goals for percentage, ninth in power play percentage and eighth on the penalty kill.

Simply put: The Bruins’ Stanley Cup window is wide-open.


Elite players are still elite

Years down the road, we might find that age curves shifted in the 2010s. With an emphasis on health, fewer fights and head hits as well as more work being done to study factors like dehydration and workload, it’s possible that hockey players’ primes will last into their 30s instead of ending in the late 20s, as current age curve models suggest.

The Bruins could be evidence of this effect. Forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, ages 32 and 29, respectively, are having among their best seasons in 2017-18.

With a hat trick on Thursday night, Bergeron has 19 goals and 19 assists in 39 games. His 57.9 percent Corsi for percentage ranks third in the NHL among forwards, with only Chicago’s Brandon Saad and Columbus’ Artemi Panarin ahead of him. When Bergeron has been on the ice this season, the B’s have taken 161 more shots than their opponents and outscored them 30-9.

Bergeron’s longtime linemate Marchand is leading the team with 46 points, placing him just inside the top 20 in the league despite missing a handful of games. He ranks fifth in even-strength scoring rate, with 3.39 points per 60 minutes.

These numbers are all on par or better than when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11. Bergeron produced 57 points in 2010-11 with a 54.2 Corsi for percentage, while Marchand had 41 points in 77 games.

Zdeno Chara, who will turn 41 in March, is still playing more than 23 minutes per game, down about just two minutes from 2010-11. And while his shot differential numbers have slipped from seasons past, the 6-foot-9 blueliner still isn’t letting anyone get in front of the net. With Chara on the ice, the Bruins have produced 158 high-danger chances to their opponents’ 129, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Veteran stars David Backes (33) and David Krejci (31) have missed time this season, but when in the lineup they are each making significant contributions. The former Blues captain has 18 points in 27 games and wins 52.9 percent of his faceoffs, while Krejci has 23 points in 26 games.

The combination of all of Boston’s veterans clicking at once has helped push the Bruins to an 8-0-2 record in their past 10 games and moved them into the top five in even-strength goals for and fewest goals allowed.

The youth movement

Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Backes and Krejci aren’t driving the Bruins’ success alone. For a team that has rarely drafted early in the first round during the past decade, Boston has a remarkable number of key players under the age of 23 playing key roles. In fact, of the Bruins’ top six scorers, four are 23 and under.

That group starts with David Pastrnak, 21-year-old right winger flanking Bergeron and Marchand on Boston’s deadly top line. Last season, the Czech forward broke out to the tune of 70 points in 75 games. He’s been even better this season, with 41 points in 44 games.

The Bruins selected Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The knock on him was size and strength, but his high-end skill allowed an instant jump from playing in Sweden. Of all the players drafted in 2014, only Leon Draisaitl has more points than Pastrnak.

Another first-rounder Jake DeBrusk, 21, has made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign, scoring 20 even-strength points in 40 games while largely playing alongside Krejci.

The pleasant surprise of the group is Danton Heinen, a fourth-round pick in 2014 who scored more than a point per game at the University of Denver and had a solid 2016-17 in the minors. He’s made the jump smoothly, adding 19 even-strength points in 40 games, playing the majority of his minutes with Riley Nash and Backes.

The biggest difference-maker in the bunch is 20-year-old rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He joined the Bruins in the postseason last spring and immediately took on a top-four role. He’s built on that experience this season, averaging 22:47 per game in ice time. The former Boston University blueliner has 24 points, 15 of which have come in even-strength assists. McAvoy has become a consistent puck-moving partner for Chara.

Boston’s collection of under-23s isn’t just bringing them value in the form of impressive production; those players are also allowing the B’s to survive huge veteran contracts.

Take the Chicago Blackhawks for example. With mega deals handed out to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Chicago struggles to find cheap depth that will support its stars. For the Bruins, the total cap hit of DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy is just $2.65 million. Boston saved in per-season spending by doing a six-year deal with Pastrnak, whose cap hit is a reasonable $6.66 million.

The youngsters also give the Bruins the type of depth required to go deep in the postseason. Even if players like DeBrusk, Heinen and McAvoy are inexperienced, Boston has them playing alongside veterans who have made deep postseason runs.

The goalie

No matter how deep we dig into the numbers or what technology arises, we might never fully understand a team’s impact on goalie performance. But in Boston’s case, it’s pretty easy to draw a connection between a stronger, deeper team and a better defense corps this season helping out Tuukka Rask.

At his absolute peak, Rask’s even-strength save percentage was an otherworldly .943. That mark slipped for three straight seasons, all the way down to .919 in 2016-17. Normally a goalie’s even-strength numbers are more predictable from season to season than his overall save percentage, so a three-season slide would be cause for concern. But he’s rebounded to a .928 save percentage in 2017-18, which may have something to do with the Bruins allowing the fewest high-danger chances in the NHL, per Natural Stat Trick.

Debates will rage for eternity as to whether teams should pay big money for top-notch goalies, but one thing is clear: Good goaltending is a requirement to win the Stanley Cup. Rask has been excellent in his postseason career, posting a .928 save percentage and giving the B’s quality starts in 62.3 percent of his starts.

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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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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.”

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In addition to banking more points in the standings, the Bruins’ recent run of success has had some other added benefits.

In winning three of their last four games by scores of 5-1, 5-0, and 5-1, Boston has had the chance to limit minutes for some of its most important players – chief among them Patrice Bergeron. In each of the last two games – blowout victories over Ottawa and the New York Islanders – Bergeron has played 12:58 (a season low) and 14:22. Dating back to Dec. 18, a span of eight games, Boston’s No. 1 pivot has played under 18 minutes in six of them.

It is a sharp – but welcome – drop-off for Bergeron, who is averaging 20 minutes, 9 seconds of ice time this season, the second highest total among Bruins forward behind Brad Marchand (20:15). The Bruins hope that trend continues on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers.

“I think it’s very important,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of limiting Bergeron’s minutes. “In Ottawa we had those minutes spread out. We go into Washington, it was overtime, a lot of special teams, they had zone time – I think he ended up at 24 minutes, that’s a heavy workload for anybody in this league, especially at forward.

“We don’t want to go down that road very often. But having games like [Tuesday] night and Ottawa allows us to push the envelope a little bit. I think it’s very important.

“It’s a long year, the schedule the way it is, you’re playing and we’re off on another break next week, time to re-charge, but then we’re playing and playing. Got to be careful there with certain guys. He’s one that we really lean on.”

Dandy Danton

Danton Heinen picked up a goal and an assist on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, giving him points in seven of his last 10 games. Five of those contests have been multi-point nights, including three of his last four.

The 22-year-old is now third on the Bruins in scoring with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 34 games. It has been an impressive showing for the rookie, who was in Providence to start the season.

“He makes a few more of those riskier plays that work out, that he might not try as a younger player that lacks confidence,” said Cassidy. “I think that’s part of confidence, part of knowing he’s kind of settled into his spot here. I don’t think it’s anything high, high risk. But it’s playing through people that he might not have done in the past. Most of them have worked out well.”

Cassidy also noted the 6-foot-1, 185-pound winger’s improved strength on the puck.

“The biggest thing is he wins a lot more pucks than last year,” said Cassidy. “I just think it’s comfort level in the NHL…he’s going through a lot of ups. He’s got the right people around him to help through it if he does have a bad day, which are few and far between. He’s been good.”

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When the Bruins and Islanders hit the ice tonight, it will be a matchup of two of the most effective lines in the NHL. The B’s trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak has made a habit of shutting down the opposition’s top line.

The Isles boast one of the most dynamic first lines in all of hockey. The grouping of Josh Bailey (12-38=50), John Tavares (21-28=49) and Anders Lee (24-15-39) are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s line of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov for the lead league in combined points with 138. Bailey and Tavares rank 2nd and T-3rd in the league in points, respectively, and Bailey also leads the league in assists.

When Bergeron and Co. took on the high-flying Tampa Bay first line earlier this season, they submitted a stifling performance. They possessed the puck to such an extent that Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper elected to split up Stamkos and Kucherov in order to get one of them away from the Bergeron line.

“Bergy has been doing it for 10 years,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s just a matter of being on the right side of puck battles and not allowing odd man rushes. Taking away time and space through the neutral zone so they don’t get clean entries with a lot of options.”

When the Bruins knocked off the Islanders at TD Garden on December 9, the Isles first line accounted for the lone goal late in the third. Lee finished a scramble in front with Josh Bailey recording an assist. Tonight, the focus for Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak will again be on out-possessing their opposition.

“Against those lines if you have the puck a lot, they are forced to defend,” said Cassidy. “They are forced to check. That takes a lot of energy, so that’s one of the biggest deterrents of keeping a good offensive line off the board.

“Hold onto the puck. Be a good puck possession team. It starts with faceoffs. We’ve been pretty good on that.”

Pastrnak noted his lines goal will be to continue and play their style.

“We try to play our game as a line,” said Pastrnak. “Try to bring the game to them. Try to spend as much time in the offensive zone. Obviously we usually play against offensive lines so… try to bring it to them and give them a tough night.”

Pasta Pressing

In his fourth season, Pastrnak is leading the Bruins in points (34), assists (19) and is tied with Marchand for the team-lead in goals (15). However, the 6-foot winger has been unable to capitalize recently, going scoreless in his previous nine contests.

Cassidy believes Pastrnak may need to simplify his game to get back on track.

“Sometimes simpler is better when you’re in a slump,” said Cassidy. “Getting around the front of the net, getting some second chances. Those type of goals usually get you going. We’ll see what happens from there.”

Despite the the goal-scoring draught for Pastrnak, the Bruins recent surge has alleviated much of the concern.

“Right now I haven’t taken notice of it much because the team is going well and we are getting secondary scoring…” said Cassidy. “I don’t believe it’s going to be prolonged to be honest with you. He’ll get his looks and score. He’s just too good a player.”

Pastrnak noted that the team’s good play is more important than his individual production.

“We’re playing good. It’s all that matters,” said Pastrnak. “All the lines are playing really good hockey, and that’s what we are about.”

Opposing Views

Tonight’s game marks the second of three meetings between the B’s and the Islanders. The Bruins claimed the first matchup, with Jake DeBrusk notching a highlight-reel game winning goal in the third period.

The Islander’s have gone 4-6 in 10 games since their defeat to the Bruins, including losses in their past two contests. They fell to the Winnipeg Jets 4-2, and then dropped their most recent game on December 31 versus the Colorado Avalanche by a score of 6-1.

In addition to their high-powered first line, the Islanders are fueled by rookie Mathew Barzal. Barzal is second among all first year players with 36 points, and leads all rookies with 23 assists. The Islanders’ 136 goals for rank 2nd in the league behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We know they’ve got some firepower up front, some skill and some speed,” said Bruins forward Sean Kuraly. “Especially up the middle. We are trying to get the puck behind their D and stick to our systems.”