The Pittsburgh Penguins could not capitalize on a chance to extend their division lead and dropped a tough 3-1 game to the Boston Bruins Tuesday night
I write nice things about the Penguins, and they do this to me? That’s whack, man. Kidding… kind of.
A 3-1 loss to the Bruins, with the chance to hold the division lead AND clinch a 15th consecutive playoff berth, is painful. There’s no doubt about it. There isn’t much to write home about Tuesday night. On the heels of a huge 1-0 win, the Bruins made the necessary adjustments and rolled over the Pens. Going 0/3 on the power play in the first period didn’t help either…
At the end of the day, the Bruins were simply the better team. That’s OK; the Bruins were in the same boat Sunday afternoon, just in the opposite setting.
However, the way in which it went down on the score sheet Tuesday wasn’t pretty — and it wouldn’t bode well for a playoff series unless addressed.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was strong in net for the Bruins, turning aside all but one Penguin shot — a rocket slapshot from Jeff Carter with as the clock wound down. Thinking back to the last time the Pens saw Rask in the playoffs, he stopped 134 of 136 shots in a sweep during the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals… no bueno.
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Perhaps the most pressing matter from Tuesday’s loss, however, was the sheer dominance of the Bruins’ top line against the Penguins’ top line, and head coach Mike Sullivan’s insistence to match them together.
Starting in the first period, the Kris Letang-Brian Dumoulin pairing was on the ropes, battered down by the Bruins’ forwards to the tune of one shot for and 14 against. That isn’t the recipe for success.
Through the course of the game, the Crosby line was on the ice for all three goals against AND fell behind 22-11 in even-strength shot attempts. That’s uncharacteristic — if not unheard of — for such a dominant two-way line.
The shot difference during Sunday’s game wasn’t as drastic, but it was still five shots in the advantage of Boston. However, the Crosby-Guentzel connection made a positive difference. Sullivan will have to get crafty, or at least just give the Crosby line a better matchup, in the event of a seven-game series.
Tuesday was just a rough night for the Penguins, with only a few positives to really takeaway.
Tristan Jarry, coming off back-to-back stellar efforts, was weak in goal. Of course, as Jesse Marshall of The Athletic pointed out, the Penguins’ defense against the Bruins Sunday was immaculate. Tuesday… not so much.
However, it wasn’t as if Jarry was left out to dry. On the first goal of the night, Bruins forward David Krejci skated into the Pens’ zone, deked Mike Matheson out of his skates with an inside-outside move and wristed a shot under Jarry’s glove — who was deep in his crease.
Tough on Matheson, tough on Jarry yet a very nice goal from Krejci. And it didn’t get any better as the period wore on. Bruins forward Brad Marchand generated a scoring chance by shooting a high, bouncing puck off Jarry’s pads, which a weird Letang-Cody Ceci pairing was unable to clear, and teammate David Pastrnak fired another shot off the rebound on Jarry, which bounced to Marchand again. He didn’t miss the back of the net this time.
To make matters even worse, recent Bruins’ acquisition Taylor Hall showcased what made him a Hart Trophy winner by deking around a lazy Crosby check as he entered the zone and wristing a snapshot up over Jarry’s blocker.
At 3-0 with just under eight minutes remaining, the game was over. The Penguins hadn’t shown enough fight to counteract an energetic Bruins team and didn’t appear able to unlock Rask — despite Carter’s goal.
Despite the loss, the Penguins hold the second seed in the East division, just one point back of the Washington Capitals. With two games to end the week against the Caps, the Pens control their own destiny. A sweep would go a long way in determining seeding heading into the playoffs.
The Penguins are still a very good team with the pieces in place to make a run in the playoffs this season. So, I wouldn’t be too worried about one loss.
Of course, it’s never so simple when it comes to the Penguins and Capitals though.
Are you worried about the Penguins following their loss to the Bruins? Let me know in the comments below!