One of these days the Boston Bruins will figure out how to beat those guys.
The Dominion held over the Bruins by the Pittsburgh Penguins is at a level that they are in the Bruins’ heads, and today’s effort by the Eastern Conference leading Penguins isn’t going to help Boston rectify that any time soon.
NHL points leader Sidney Crosby and Joe Vitale both logged 1st period goals and backup goal tender Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal as the shorthanded Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the dumbstruck Boston Bruins 2-1 at Consol Energy Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon
Boston Goaltender Tuukka Rask faced only 18 shots, stopping 16, but still took the loss. Tyler Seguin scored the Bruins lone goal for his 10th on the season. The loss dropped the Bruins to 19-5-3 and a full three points behind the Penguins in the race for the the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins did everything they needed to do, crisp passing, extended offensive sets in the Penguins zone, pelting the besieged Vokoun with nearly twice as many shots as the Bruins’ defense allowed against Rask…but in the end, they just couldn’t put the puck in the net.
The Penguins were without star center Evengi Malkin who has been out for five straight games, and top scoring defenseman Kris Letang for most of the contest, the result of a collision with Brad Marchand in the opening frame – but their depth and a focus on team defense helped them post their ninth consecutive victory.
“Our team defense has been a focus for us and how we play, and it’s everybody,” Penguins coach Don Bylsma said. “The responsibilities of our forwards in the defensive zone has been a key for us both offensively and defensively. In the defensive zone we’re six guys defending there.”
Crosby opened the scoring twelve minutes in, taking a crossing passing and slapping the puck into the open net moments after being denied by Rask on a clean break after splitting Bruins’ defensemen – the score coming just after the faceoff in the Boston zone after the failed attempt.
Seguin followed four and a half minutes later, firing a rocket past a helpless Vokoun as a centering pass deflected off of defenseman Johnny Boychuck’s skate right into Seguin’s wheelhouse. Vitale finished the scoring just 32 seconds before the end of the 1st period, slicing in from the right circle, going airborne and ripping the puck top shelf past a surprised Rask.
The final two periods saw plenty of spectacular saves and solid defense in what can only be termed as a playoff atmosphere, something not lost on Marchand. “They played pretty sound defensively, you’ve got to give them that even though their top guys were out,” Marchand said. “That makes it a little bit tough to play against, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Pittsburgh now turns it’s focus to working on getting healthy and rested, taking on the Caps on Tuesday, then visting the Islanders on Friday night before returning home for a massive five game homestand starting Sunday against the Flyers, while the Bruins run the Polar Express, visiting Winnipeg on Tuesday, Ottawa on Thursday and Toronto on Saturday before returning home to host those same Maple Leafs next Monday.
“Thought we had a chance to win,” Boston coach Claude Julien lamented following the game. “We spent more time in their end and we did all the things right except we couldn’t get that goal. There was a couple of times where the goalie was out and we shot a puck and it looked like it was going, it hits a skate and goes wide and you get those games, you get those nights.”
Just seems like those nights happen more often when their opponent is the Penguins…