Marchand shines as Bruins defeat Blues, 4-2

560060.jpg

Marchand shines as Bruins defeat Blues, 4-2

ST. LOUIS, MO The Bruins had to battle, grind and scrape their way through against a Blues team thats been dominant at home all season, but they managed to get a hard-fought, badly-needed victory.

The stagnant Bs offense exploded for three goals in the first period, withstood everything the competitive Blues could throw at them in the second frame and survived for a 4-2 win over the Blues at Scottrade Center.

The victory snapped Bostons two-game losing streak and handed St. Louis their first home loss since a Dec. 3 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.

It wasnt easy, but nothing has been for the Black and Gold lately.

Brad Marchand opened things up with an early going after picking the pockets of former BU defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and roofing a shot over Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. Milan Lucic tipped home a Joe Corvo point shot to give the Bs a two-goal lead early, but then St. Louis punched back with everything they had.

Chris Stewart beat Tim Thomas with a whirling blast of a loose puck in front of the net, and Ryan Reaves tipped home a TJ Crombeen shot to tie things up in the opening 20 minutes.

But the Bruins answered before the first 20 minutes of scoring was up, and Chris Kelly snapped home a shot from the slot area after a smart centering pass from Lucic set everything into motion. From there it was up to Thomas to dominate with 14 saves in the second period after looking slightly shaky in the opening minutes of the contest.

Marchand added his second goal of the night after a long lead pass from Tyler Seguin freed him for a breakaway, and he tucked the puck between Elliotts pads for the backbreaking insurance goal.

GOLD STAR

Brad Marchand created the bookend scores by manufacturing a goal early when he picked Kevin Shattenkirks pocket in the first period by the blue line before firing a shot past Brian Elliott. The Nose Face Killah also ended things with a five-hole score off a breakaway set up by a sweet Tyler Seguin stretch pass in the third period to create some breathing room for the Black and Gold. The two goals snapped a six-game goal-scoring drought for Marchand and put him over 20 goals again for the second time in two NHL seasons. Marchand hadnt brought much energy lately in a performance that was symbolic of the entire team, but he brought the goods against St. Louis on Wednesday night.

BLACK EYE

Jordan Caron was relegated to the bench in the third period when it was pretty clear that the 20-year-old winger was a tad overwhelmed on the ice. Both Caron and Carter Camper didnt get a shift in the final 20 minutes when Claude Julien shortened his bench, and with Camper it was understandable in his first career NHL game. But Caron needs to start being more of a consistent factor when his line was a liability getting hemmed into the zone throughout the game. No shots, no hits and no presence in 5:14 of ice time on nine shifts.

TURNING POINT

Tim Thomas wasnt able to track the pucks in the first period when screens and bouncing pucks added up to a pair of goals allowed, but Thomas locked it down in the second period. The Bruins were out-shot by a 14-4 margin in the middle 20 minutes, but Thomas locked things down and finished things off with a flourishing glove save on Kris Russell from the high slot area. Thomas finished with 30 saves and the kind of bounce-back performance enjoyed by the entire team, but his ability to hold it together in the second was a big key.

HONORABLE MENTION

Zdeno Chara was second on the Bs in ice time with 23:27, finished with a plus-3, doled out five hits and was the kind of menacing defensive presence hes always been known for. Big Zee led the way with some stalwart defensive work and enjoyed his best game in about two weeks while rising to the occasion when the team needed it. His play and the teams result are inexorably linked and Wednesday nights win over the Blues just hammered that fact home.

BY THE NUMBERS

13-0-0 the record this season for the Bruins when Chris Kelly notches at least one goal. His strike at the end of the first ended up being the game-winner and tied his single-season career-high with 15 goals on the year.

QUOTE TO NOTE

What does Cam always say? The flu is just a really good sweat. Shawn Thornton when asked if the flu would ever keep him out of an NHL game after playing 11:09 of ice time while fighting through a flu bug that kept him out of the morning skate.

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

patriots-blount-1-102316.jpg

Blount on free agency: 'I definitely want to go back to New England'

LeGarrette Blount knows where he wants to be for 2017. Ever since he re-joined the Patriots in 2014 following a short stay in Pittsburgh, the 250-pound back has been very open about how he wants to play out the rest of his career in New England. 

Those feelings haven't changed, even as he faces free-agency after having recorded the best season of his seven-year career.

"I just want to make sure that I go to this free agency with an open mind, knowing that I definitely want to go back to New England," he told NFL Total Access on Monday. "I love it there. I love the culture. I love the players. I've become close with a lot of the guys. Obviously you know how my running back group is.

"We'll cross that bridge whenever we cross it. On that point, I feel great. I'm in amazing shape. I feel like I could play 100 more years if I have to."

Blount finished 2016 with career-highs in attempts (299) yards (1,161) and touchowns (18). His ability to help the Patriots close games in the fourth quarter was notable throughout the course of the season, and he was among the most effective goal-line backs in the league. His 18 rushing scores are a franchise record.

Toward the end of the season, as Dion Lewis worked his way back into the Patriots offense, Blount had his workload cut into, and his fumble in the Super Bowl was a near-catastrophic moment -- his devastated reaction to which was caught expertly by NFL Films. But a big-picture view of Blount's year would reveal that he  posted the most prodictive "big back" season the Patriots have had in more than a decade.

Blount signed a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason after seeing his 2015 prematurely ended by way of a hip injury. He turned 30 in December.

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson named Lakers president of basketball ops, Kupchak fired

Magic Johnson was named the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations after longtime Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and vice president of basketball ops Jim Buss were fired, the team announced.

"Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights [late owner] Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss' daughter, Jim Buss' brother and Lakers president and co-owner, said in a statement. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Johnson, the Hall of Famer guard who led L.A. to five NBA titles, said in the same statement: “It’s a dream come true to return to the Lakers as President of Basketball Operations working closely with Jeanie Buss and the Buss family. Since 1979, I’ve been a part of the Laker Nation and I’m passionate about this organization. I will do everything I can to build a winning culture on and off the court. We have a great coach in Luke Walton and good young players. We will work tirelessly to return our Los Angeles Lakers to NBA champions.”

Johnson, part of a group that owns MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers, returned to the organization as an adviser earlier this month. Johnson coached the Lakers briefly in the 1993-94 season, going 5-11. 

Johnson's new job with the Lakers won't change his role with the Dodgers, according to the L.A. Times.

The current Lakers have the third-worst record in the NBA at 19-39 after finishing with the second-worst mark in the league (17-65) last season. Kupchak was named an assistant GM under Jerry West in 1986 and in 2000 took over for West as GM.