The Boston Bruins were looking to avenge a 5-1 loss Sunday in Pittsburgh by taking the rematch in the friendlier confines of the TD Garden. Friendly it was as the B’s got a seemingly endless string of powerplay time.
This was a very emotional game from start to finish and, unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Penguins, that emotion more often than not showed itself in the form of frustration.
The first period started off well enough. Less than 8 minutes in, Boston defenceman Brandon Carlo opened the scoring, one timing a pass from Pittsburgh’s Justin Schultz into a wide open net…behind his own goalie, Tukka Rask. Penguins, 1: Carlo, -1.
Two minutes later, Conor Sheary drew a cross checking penalty and the Pens were on the man advantage. After 30 seconds of chaos, Phil Kessel made a beautiful cross seam pass over to Crosby to spread things out and settle it down. Moments later Crosby sent the same pass right back to Kessel for an easy one time goal.
Pittsburgh maintained excellent structure throughout the period, especially in the defensive end. The Bruins were having a terrible time penetrating the middle of the ice. All was well after 20 minutes except for one thing: Pittsburgh’s hesitation to shoot the puck.
In the second period that would come to a head as the Pens were outshot 16-4. To be fair, part of that had to do with the Boston having 3 power plays. Honestly, the Penguins again held their 5 on 5 structure very well. It was while on the powerplay they would be exposed first.
Both Schulz and Kessel went to the bench for a line change at the same time, leaving the far side of the ice wide open. Bergeron sent a quick heads up cross ice pass to Marchand who streaked in and fired a nice low wrister under the short side pad of Matt Murray to cut the lead in half.
Marchand struck again 5 minutes later. Off a set faceoff play, he worked himself to the near post. Guentzel lost him and he timed it perfectly, picking up a rebound and burying it with authority.
Schultz was involved in another big play, taking a fantastic saucer pass from Sidney Crosby off a fast break. He was alone just to Rask’s left but the Boston netminder held his ground, taking away the glorious scoring chance.
The game started to get even more physical, and with the teams at 4 on 4 the Bruins would take their first lead. Riley Nash made a perfect deflection right in front of Murray, who had no chance on this one.
The period ended with the Bruins ahead 3-2 and the Penguins short handed.
What was disappointing to me wasn’t the 16 shots against or even the 3 goals against. Like I said, I actually thought the Pens did well in the defensive zone positionally. They got outbattled, but at least they were battling. What concerned me more was the 4 shots the other way. It’s not to say they didn’t have good zone entry. It’s not to say they didn’t have some chances. It was the lack of second shots, and the lack of moving the puck forward toward the net or the corners. Instead, it was the infuriatingly pretty cross zone horizontal passes with no shot. Plus there were hits, fights, and scrums, and they all went one way, the wrong one.
In the third period, with the Bruins finishing up their power play, Bergeron roofed a loose puck and after review it was 4-2 just like that.
Then Boston got another power play and two things happened.
The first is that Ian Cole blocked a laser from the point with his leg and stayed down for a few seconds. He got up and fought his way back to the net, defending his area until Murray covered the puck. That seemed to give the Penguins a lift.
The second happened on the same kill. Kris Kunitz quietly hammered David Krejci in the corner with a calm, solid shoulder to chest hit. It wasn’t a spotlight open ice fight drawing hit. It was one of those subtle I didn’t see it coming, what just happened, why am I on my knees and why do my lungs hurt kind of hits.
This kill changed the game. It changed the way I felt watching it as a fan. It changed the way the Penguins played. After mucking it up but being badly outhit, outfought and having no zone time to show for it, suddenly it seemed the Pens forwards were everywhere.
At 9:25, Hornquist shook off a check in the corner and muscled his way to the front of the net. Kunitz controlled the wall behind the net and fed it out front to Horny for a huge 4-3 goal.
It was suddenly a see saw battle right to the final whistle. There was a lot more going on in the ironically named quiet zones along the boards in the Bruins end. Hornquist finally locked horns in his usual spot at the edge of the crease. Crosby engaged Chara at the side of the net as well and took a cross check to the head for his troubles.
There was a great chance by Daley on a powerplay earlier in the period. The Penguins pressed hard at the end. But Rask was perfect when he needed to be and that was that.
1) I think this is exactly what was needed at this point in the season for the Penguins. Being pushed around all over the ice and fighting back but not really meaning it. 50 minutes of misguided passion and battling for the wrong reasons. It all cumulated in what was still a winnable game. Add 10 more minutes to that clock and it would have been something special.
That’s the kind of war they haven’t really had since last spring.
Cruise control has officially been switched off.
2) As an aside, I hate these black Bruins jerseys.
3) Playing opposite Tukka Rask, a very aggressive goalie, it became glaringly obvious to me just how far back in his net Matt Murray positions himself. I’m not saying it’s good or bad. I just really noticed it tonight more than other games.
LTP Three Stars:
3)The lady in the Bruins jersey who in the second period bent down, picked up her beer off the floor, and literally just wet her lips with it. There’s no way she took even an eighth of a mouthful. Then she bent way over and set it down again. Why go through so much effort if you’re not committed to at least a medium