Pittsburgh Penguins Preyed on By Boston Bruins


Despite a strong start, the Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t match the energy and offensive power of the Boston Bruins and fell to that other team in black and gold, 5-1.

The Boston Bruins came into tonight 2-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, sitting just two points ahead of them in the playoff race.

Spending a lot of time in the Bruins zone, Olli Maatta hit Bruins captain Zdeno Chara in the helmet with a slapshot just minutes into the game. Chara went to the bench for examination, but returned to the game.

Moments later, the Bruins’ Brett Connolly had an explosive chance against Marc-Andre Fleury, who made the initial save and then was helped out by his captain, Sidney Crosby, who cleared the puck out of the crease before Connolly could get a second chance.

Crosby took a few shifts with the fourth line in addition to centering the first. Eight players who began the season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in Pittsburgh right now, and seven of them are in the lineup tonight (excluding new recall Steve Oleksy).

Though Oleksy was called up just this morning, Ian Cole slotted in the lineup in Ben Lovejoy‘s absence. This is Cole’s first game since January, and he needed to make an impact.

Fleury had several instances in the first when he left his net at times he probably shouldn’t have: he collided with his own defenseman Brian Dumoulin behind it once and later went to go play the puck while most of the players were lurking in his zone, only miraculously making the save on what was mostly an empty net. He misplayed the puck behind the net several more times before the first twenty minutes were even up.

Luckily for Cole, though, he did help save a second attempt on that still mostly empty net.

Soon the period changed pace as Boston picked up their game. Players like Patrice Bergeron turned on the jets and led several rushes down the ice.

The Penguins’ defense was impressively offensively-minded, making a lot of powerful shot attempts. However, it was also a defenseman that directly led to the Bruins’ first goal of the game.

Derrick Pouliot interfered with David Pastrnak as he was crashing the net and the referees deemed it worthy of a penalty shot attempt. Pastrnak, who admittedly has some pretty silky mitts, made no mistake in putting the puck behind Fleury.

It was 19 year old Pastrnak’s first career penalty shot attempt – and obviously, his first penalty shot goal. The Czech connection came through as David Krejci made a flying pass up-ice to Pastrnak that led to the attempt and goal.

Adam McQuaid was assigned to cover Crosby about midway through the first and the matchup stuck. McQuaid, 6’4″ and never afraid to be aggressive on the ice, has almost half a foot on Crosby and tied him up several times.

Just moments into the second period, Scott Wilson and Landon Ferraro dropped the gloves. Ferraro got the better of Wilson in the end, but it was a spirited bout by players who have met many times in the AHL.

After flying fists sent spirits soaring, both teams looked renewed. Pastrnak proved his night was nowhere near done, scoring his second of the night. Fleury was out of net again but even after he got back in position, Maatta seriously mishandled the puck and turned it over directly to Pastrnak, who roofed it over a sprawling Fleury.

Not to be outdone, Tom Kuhnhackl got one back for the Penguins right after. It was his second goal of the season, the first coming only a few games prior. It wasn’t the prettiest goal: it went into the Bruins net along with Kuhnhackl’s entire body as he couldn’t come to a stop fast enough, but it put the Penguins on the board and that’s what matters.

Feb 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Landon Ferraro (29) fights Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Scott Wilson (23) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 24, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Landon Ferraro (29) fights Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Scott Wilson (23) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Oskar Sundqvist snagged his first NHL point on Kuhnhackl’s goal, taking the initial shot on Tuukka Rask.

Despite his earlier accidents out of the net, Fleury proved why he is truly a great goalie: he made a series of stunning saves on Bruins Torey Krug and Ryan Spooner to keep the Penguins only one goal behind.

Rask made valiant saves in the second, too, including a few against Carl Hagelin, Kris Letang, Matt Cullen, and even one from Wilson right on the doorstep.

In the midst of the sustained pressure, Letang drew a penalty against Ferraro, who went to the penalty box again. The Pens have gone 0-for-15 on the powerplay in their last 7 games – all games without Evgeni Malkin – and this one would be no different.

Not only did the Penguins just pass the puck around without tallying any shots, Brad Marchand stole the puck and tore down the ice in a shorthanded two-on-one with Krejci. Luckily for the Pens, his shot rang off the post, but it was a lackluster powerplay at best.

The Penguins ended the period leading the Bruins in shots 28-18, but still trailing 2-1.

Wilson and Conor Sheary made a string of good plays early in the third period, as did Hagelin and his linemate Phil Kessel, but nothing could get through Rask and his defense.

On the other end, Spooner drew Fleury’s attention and passed the puck cross-crease to Jimmy Hayes, who lifted it up over the outstretched pad as the goaltender was still looking the other way.

McQuaid had a remarkable game tonight, assisting on all three goals up to this point (including the penalty shot!) and shutting down Crosby whenever he was on the ice. He lost his helmet in a brief altercation with Crosby just before the Hayes goal and then still blocked a shot, allowing Spooner to get the puck and take it up the ice.

The Bruins and Penguins don’t meet again for the rest of the regular season, but if they happen to match up in the playoffs or down the road, let’s hope the Penguins learn how to solve McQuaid.

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The Bruins certainly came to play in the third period. Their energy was higher than the Penguins’ and, to spout cliches, the B’s just seemed like they wanted it more. Ferraro snatched up a pass intended for Maatta and broke away up the ice, in alone on Fleury, and found twine. Not to be outdone, Marchand scored his own, tallying a career-high 31 goals.

The Bruins scored on three consecutive shots and notched all their third-period goals in a five-minute time span, putting the game all but out of reach for the Penguins. Though the Pens had 42 shots on goal, Rask stood strong and had a season-high 41 saves – when a goaltender’s hot, he’s hot.

Maatta had a rough game tonight, struggling with puck control and directly leading to two Boston goals. With a final score of 5-1, the Penguins were swept by the Bruins in their season series.

Hopefully, when Malkin returns to the lineup Saturday against Winnipeg, the Penguins can get their game together.