PITTSBURGH – It was clearly a result that nobody saw coming, but the Bruins outscored, out-toughed and outlasted the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 3-0 shutout victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals the CONSOL Energy Center.
The first two goals were scored by the playoffs leading scorer in David Krejci, who struck in the first period on a shot from the slot with Paul Martin attempting a diving shot block in front. Instead the puck glanced off the defenseman and right through Tomas Vokoun’s five-hole midway through the first.
The score remained the same until the third period when No. 46 picked up his second goal of the game. Nathan Horton beat Mark Eaton along the side boards in a one-on-one battle, and fed to a shooting Krejci from the right circle. The rebound popped straight up in the air, and Krejci batted his own shot into the net.
The two goals give Krejci a Stanley Cup-best seven goals and 19 points in 13 games, and once again bolster his growing body of work for a potential Conn Smythe bid. The rest of the game was bloody nastiness, as the Penguins were clearly trying to make a physical statement against the Black and Gold.
The Penguins outhit the Bruins by a vast margin, but Matt Cooke also got tossed in the first period on an egregious hit from behind on Adam McQuaid. Then at the end of the second period Evgeni Malkin went after Patrice Bergeron, and the Russian sniper caught No. 37 with several punches after they were already down on the ice. In the same scrum Sidney Crosby elbowed Tuukka Rask and gave him a cross-check that drew the wrath of Zdeno Chara, who the Pittsburgh captain clearly wanted nothing to do with.
Nathan Horton added a rebound score in the third period that gave Boston all the insurance they would need in victory.
GOLD STAR: David Krejci with the first two goals of the game, a game-high seven shots on net and a fierce determination to show that he’s every bit as good as the much-hyped Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton were all playing with quickness, toughness and aggressiveness throughout the game, and caught the Penguins in transition while scoring each of the goals for No. 46. The first was a shot from the slot that got through a diving Paul Martin, and the pads of Tomas Vokoun on the way to the net. The second was a quick shot off a won one-on-one battle by Nathan Horton on the side boards, and Krejci now leads the NHL with seven goals scored and 19 points during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
BLACK EYE: Sidney Crosby had one of his worst playoff games going up against the Big Bad Bruins. He was on ice for both of David Krejci’s goals, he lost 6-of-17 face-offs mostly to Patrice Bergeron and he spent way too much time whining to officials and getting involved in scrums he should have been nowhere near. He finished with four shots on net, but two of them came in the third period after the game had really been decided. At that point Crosby was so frustrated that he took a dumb slashing penalty on Tyler Seguin, and embarrassed himself by chasing after and cross-checking Tuukka Rask at the end of the second period. It was very reminiscent of Crosby’s playoff series vs. the Flyers last season when he was driven to distraction by Philadelphia, and it ended up hurting the Penguins.
TURNING POINT: Evgeni Malkin just missed on a goal at the end of the first period after Matt Niskanen had rifled a shot off the back of the end boards that could have tied the game. Instead the rebound bid glanced off Tuukka Rask’s glove and trickled harmlessly through the crease and past the post. It would have been a backbreaking score surrendered by the Bruins, and it could have been exactly the break that the Penguins needed. Instead it was a lost opportunity just like the three posts hit by Pittsburgh, and it turned into a mounting source of frustration as the game progressed.
HONORABLE MENTION: Nathan Horton finished with three points, and has quietly put together a solid Stanley Cup playoff run with 15 points in 13 games for the Black and Gold. Horton has 6 goals and 9 assists, and is the only other Bruins scorer aside from David Krejci in the top five for points during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Even more importantly it was Horton’s passes in the first and third period that set up both of Krejci’s goals, and it was a victorious one-on-one battle against Mark Eaton along the side walls that created the insurance score for Boston. Plenty of things accomplished in only 13:50 of ice time.
BY THE NUMBER: 16 – the number of months since the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins were shut out by anybody, a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 1, 2012.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think [Malkin and Crosby] are the best players in the world at this moment. There's no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don't have guys like that. We have a team. We all play as a team.” –David Krejci postgame, trying to say nothing but saying everything about both the Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins.