PITTSBURGH -- The Bruins had two chances this week to jump over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the standings.
But in each case the Penguins got the better of Boston, and staked their claim as the best team in the Eastern Conference. On Sunday, they polished off the Bruins by a 2-1 score at CONSOL Energy Center for their ninth straight win.
The Penguins struck first in the opening period after a perturbed Sidney Crosby didn’t get a call on a rush down the middle of the ice that split defenders Johnny Boychuk and Zdeno Chara. Crosby went down on the ice and still got a forehand shot off from a sitting position, but muttered an expletive when Tuukka Rask stopped his shot and there wasn’t a ref’s raised hand in sight.
On the very next face-off, the Penguins raised the pressure, and Pascal Dupuis stripped Zdeno Chara of a puck behind the net. Two passes later Crosby had his 13th goal of the year on a snapped shot from the right circle.
The Bruins tied it up later in the period when a Johnny Boychuk shot bounced off a Pittsburgh defender battling with Patrice Bergeron in the high slot, and right to a waiting Tyler Seguin in the bottom of the left circle. Seguin sniped it into the open net for his 10th goal of the year, but the Bruins defense sagged in the final minute of the period.
Tuukka Rask couldn’t cleanly glove a Craig Adams shot from the right point set up by a Joe Vitale rush, and the former Northeastern standout kept skating to the net and put back the rebound with 32 seconds until the first intermission.
To add injury to insult David Krejci appeared to injure his right knee in the third period when he absorbed a Johnny Boychuk rocket flush off the leg and had to be helped off the ice.
GOLD STAR: As much as it pains me to do it, Tomas Vokoun deserves it for stopping 31 of Boston’s shots to protect a one goal lead once the Penguins had built it up at the end of the first period. The sense following the game was that the Bruins hadn’t really been able to truly test the Pittsburgh back-up with shots in tight and close to the net, and some credit should go to the Penguins for that. But Vokoun was able to stand tall with the slimmest of leads, and didn’t turn into a puddle when Tyler Seguin nearly tied things up with a wraparound attempt in the third period. An errant Vokoun skate in the wrong place could have meant overtime for the Bruins, and instead it was their fifth regulation loss of the season.
BLACK EYE: Dennis Seidenberg was far from bad, but he didn’t have the bounce back game one might have hoped after serving up the pass that led to Pittsburgh’s third period game-winner earlier this week. Instead Seidenberg was on the ice for both of Pittsburgh’s goals even though it was Zdeno Chara that coughed up the puck leading to Sidney Crosby’s opening goal of the game. He finished with a minus-2 along with two blocked shots and two shots on net in 22:39 of ice time. The entire quintet of B’s players on the ice was guilt on the second goal as Pittsburgh’s crash-and-bang line was allowed to gather up way too much speed and momentum entering the Boston zone prior to the goal.
TURNING POINT: It looked like Seguin was going to be the hero when he snapped the puck away from a confused Tomas Vokoun at the right post, and then wheeled around to tuck a wraparound goal inside the left post. But a Pittsburgh defender caused Seguin to slightly rush the shot, and instead it skittered through the crease harmlessly to the other side of the net. That was Boston’s last, best chance to tie things up and at least salvage a point in the first game of the four game road trip, but it wasn’t meant to be. Boston had their chances while out-shooting the Penguins 12-3 in the final 20 minutes of the game, but couldn’t break through.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tyler Seguin had his good wheels on Sunday afternoon and finished with a team-high five shots on net along with the B’s only score in the first period. Unfortunately, Seguin couldn’t connect on a wraparound chance in the third period that would have tied the game with less than seven minutes to go in the third period – and would have pushed things into overtime. But the fact that Seguin led all forwards with 20:31 of ice time tells you that the Claude Julien and the Bruins coaching staff recognized the jump he was playing with.
BY THE NUMBERS: 26 – the number of consecutive successful penalty kills for the Bruins dating back to a March 3 game against the Canadiens. One more would match their season high, and they already have had three stretches of killing 20 plus straight power plays this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I’m not disappointed in our effort today. It was our third game in four nights and I thought we competed hard. It was a good game by both teams. It was a typical playoff game. We played well and played hard, and so did they.” –Bruins coach Claude Julien, who comes away from Sunday afternoon satisfied that the Bruins gave their all.