Boston Bruins’ Gamenight: Rask, Marchand dominate as Bruins mug Penguins


The Pittsburgh Penguins came out of the opening faceoff in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Boston Bruins and did everything they wanted to do.  They attacked, won the shots on goal advantage and took back the open ice that the Bruins had taken from them in Game 1…

…for exactly 28 seconds.

Jun 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) handle the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in game two of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Boston Bruins won 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Actually less than that as just seconds into the match, the Bruins’ Brad Marchand picked off a whiff by Penguins’ Captain Sidney Crosby in the neutral zone and turned on the after burners, breaking right up the slot and burying the puck behind Tomas Vocoun and all of the Penguins hopes to take back home ice advantage evaporated like stale pond water…

…which is what the surface at Consol Energy Arena will become if the Penguins can’t find a way to take one of the two games coming up in Boston on Wednesday and Friday nights, which is much easier said than done as Pittsburgh appears to be clueless has to how to crack the Bruins wedge defense.

And make no mistake, the 6-1 final score may seem to indicate an impressive offensive performance by the visitors, but in reality it was the Bruins’ aggressive press defense and physical manhandling of the Penguins in the trenches that won this game, and Marchand’s goal seconds into the contest was the first of many, many examples.

The Bruins’ first and second lines took turns pelting Pittsburgh goaltending with shots spawned from the tough defense.

After Nathan Horton found the puck in front of the Pittsburgh goal and flipped it through some timber and past Vocoun for a 2-0 Boston lead, Horton and Milan Lucic put on a dazzling display of slick passing with Horton finding a wide open David Krejci who planted the puck behind Vocoun and had the crowd clamoring for back up goalie Marc-Andre Fleury…

…and the change of netminder seemed to resuscitate the Penguins, as for one bittersweet moment they found their stride, their passing crisp and with just 34 seconds left in the opening frame Brandon Sutter fired a rocket over Boston goalie Tuukka Rask’s shoulder to get the lead down to two and, more importantly, to get some momentum heading into the second period.

The crowd was out of their seats, the Penguins had life, finally getting through a crack in Boston’s defense and finding twine.  That was Penguins’ hockey and quite possibly the turning point for this series.

So you can imagine that if Marchand’s game opening goal took the air right out of the Penguins and thier home crowd, his second goal exactly 30 seconds after Sutter’s score took their hearts out of their chests and stomped them like grapes.

Jaromir Jagr forced a turnover along the boards in front of the Bruins’ bench, found a streaking Patrice Bergeron who put a pass right in Marchand’s wheelhouse, the resulting blast from the top of the right circle easily beating a stunned Fleury.

Instead of heading into the locker room with a score and momentum, Marchand’s cruel answer ended any hope Pittsburgh had of climbing back into this game, and perhaps the series.

Once Marchand made the score 4-1 and the game was all but decided, the Bruins did what any championship quality team would do:  They poured it on, relentlessly hammering the Penguins when they had the puck and even harder when they didn’t.

Suddenly, there was no difference between the Penguins team that kept running into each other and skating around in circles in the third period of the first game and the Penguins that were colliding and skating in circles the first period of Monday night’s game – and it got no better as the game wore on, as Boston added two more goals against the confused Penguins.

The Bergeron goal just seconds into the final frame was the reward for plenty of hard work on the forecheck, but Johnny Boychuck’s missile from the top of the right circle with just a minute and a half left in the game was a message.

The Bruins know about playing the Penguins.  Three times in the regular season, Pittsburgh came from behind in the third period to beat Boston, one time coming from three scores down.  You can’t relax on this Penguins’ team, they are too good and they can erase a deficit quickly…

…so Boychuck figured he’d let both the Penguins and their fans know that they’re going to have to bring something other than their weak attempt at imitating the Bruins to get back in this series, something that the Penguins players seemed to take to heart, after they picked them up off the ice and carried them gingerly to the team trainers – not even bothering to attack, down five goals.

The crowd was letting the Penguins have it, the Bruins were beating them to a pulp and their high scoring mystique was gone as Rask and the Bruins’ defense shut down every advance – not the way you want to end your season in front of your fans, which one can be reasonably sure that the Bruins will be happy to reinforce in Game 3 on Wednesday night at TD Garden…