Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis


Haggerty: Bruins get back on the beam in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS There were plenty of things to be enthused about after the Bruins went into one of the most inhospitable places in the NHL and came away with two points . . . and some regained bravado.

The Blues had gone an amazing 21 straight games without losing in regulation at the Scottrade Center, but the Bruins handed them their first home defeat since Dec. 3 with a 4-2 victory Wednesday night.

It was a great team effort, said Chris Kelly. The goals we scored werent about forcing anything. It was about being in the right spots and capitalizing on our chance. We just kept plugging away and going at them. We stuck with the game plan and didnt get into a situation where we were on the defense all night.

It was a simple return to the Bruins way of doing things.

There were heavy, punishing hits all over the ice, like the thumping David Krejci put on Kris Russell behind the St. Louis net to set up the Bs second goal. There was a goaltending clinic put on by Tim Thomas in the second period, when he stopped everything as the Blues outshot the Bruins 14-4. There was an undeniable emotional spark from Brad Marchand early in the game, when he turned a splendidly clean steal from Kevin Shattenkirk into instant offense.

There werent any passengers on the bus this evening (including the struggling Krejci, who, in his new right-wing role, helped set up goals for linemates Kelly and Milan Lucic). That roster-wide participation made all the difference for a team that came into Wednesday with three regulation wins in its last 18 games.

There was no doubt we played to win and we did the right things, said coach Claude Julien. I dont think one guy was a bigger hero than the other tonight. I thought this was really a good team win.

It goes to show that when our guys really put their minds to it and are determined to be the hardest-working team out there, then they give you a really good chance to win. Tonight as a coach I was really happy with everybodys game. We worked really hard.

It was the first time the Bs scored more than three goals in a game in nearly three weeks, and it helped that they got away from an offensive formula that had failed them during their recent skid. The Bruins didnt pile up an obscene numbers of futile shot attempts from the perimeter, like they did against Minnesota or the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this month. Instead they reverted to form and chose quality scoring chances over shot quantity. Alert, aggressive defensive plays and punishing forechecking created scoring chances that they capitalized on.

A big thing today was getting that first goal. It helped lighten the mood and gave us that confidence, said Lucic. Even though they tied it up later, the first goal gave us that weight off our shoulders that we could go out and get the next one.

Best of all, the Bruins finally returned to form in the third period. After getting outscored by a 5-1 margin in the third period over the previous four games, the Bruins outshot the Blues, prevented them from scoring, and put the finishing touches on sweet victory with a Marchand breakaway goal.

It was a focused 60-minute effort, and it couldnt have looked more different than many of Bostons recent sleepy performances.

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.