B's energy line lives up to its name


B's energy line lives up to its name

Earlier this week the Bruins fourth line of Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille along with their coach Claude Julien lamented that they hadnt been as consistently good last year as theyd been in the Stanley Cup season.

So instead of coming up with excuses or simply accepting mediocrity, the Bs energy cranked it up like they main-lining Red Bull and became a huge factor in Bostons 3-1 victory over the Rangers on opening night.

They came as advertised: opportunistic offense, gritty and responsible defense and the courageous willingness to sacrifice their bodies for the purpose of spiking up the energy levels.

They did exactly what we expect them to do. Not so much the fight, which is something they do automatically. Thornton has always been there for us and Campbell always likes to take on bigger guys than he should, but that just means that he doesnt back down from everybody, said Claude Julien. Hes a trooper, no matter what, he was coming back in the third and he was going to play the same way. They did a great job.

Not only did they score the goal, they did a lot of good things. Every once in a while they were out there against some of their big lines. If you remember a couple of years ago, they were able to handle that. They were doing the right things and I felt like they were showing that again tonight, so they got that opportunity.

Paille finished with the game-winning goal in the second period after he redirected a long Gregory Campbell shot that dinged off the post, bounced off the backside of Henrik Lundqvist and rattled its way to the back of the net. That was the biggest portion of a solid night for the fourth lines left wing, but it wasnt long before his two fourth line partners got involved.

Thats something that weve been trying to drive through the net, especially our line, said Paille. When it works, it helps out huge for us to get some goals, and I think thats important for us for a good win like that.

Brad Richard rifled home a puck later in the second period that made it a one-goal game for the Rangers, but Thornton and Campbell factored in and changed that flow of momentum quickly. Thornton dropped the gloves with Rangers tough guy Mike Rupp and engaged in a minute-long dance that ended with the Bruins enforcer bloodying his Rangers counterpart with an overhand right straight to the face.

It had been awhile. Im sure its been awhile for Rupp too, said Thornton. They had just scored, I figured it was just as good a time as any to get the momentum going back the other way, maybe shake off some rust at the same time.

Then on the next face-off 6-foot, 197-pound Campbell took on the 6-foot-4, 207-pound Stu Bickel and fought to a draw after both combatants exchanged flying punches in an emotional bout.

Those two hockey fights wrested the momentum flow back away from the Rangers, and the Bruins put together dominant shift after shift to discourage New York before finally putting them away with Johnny Boychuks score in the third period. Paille, Campbell and Thornton spoke all week about the desire to bounce back from their combined minus-15 rating from last season, and to constantly provide the energy that arrived in erratic bunches last season.

Saturday was a good start for the trio in all of those areas.

Weve all talked about that line. Thats a line that gets us going. Weve seen that in the past years and again tonight and its the same thing again, said Patrice Bergeron. Its about getting momentum. A huge goal for us, but also those fights lift you up, and theyre always there for you so it means a lot for the rest of the team.

Two years ago the Bruins fourth line was called the best in the NHL when Boston captured the Stanley Cup, and nobody will ever forget the tone they set in Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks. Its well-documented how important the energy line is to the fortunes of the Black and Gold, and it looks it could be a good year for both after a textbook performance on opening night.

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1


STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl


Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.