Khudobin a tough luck loser to Penguins

Khudobin a tough luck loser to Penguins
March 13, 2013, 2:00 am
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PITTSBURGH – It didn’t really raise too many eyebrows when Anton Khudobin was given the starting nod against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After all the Bruins had been splitting up the back-to-back games between their two goaltenders all season, and the 26-year-old Khudobin was playing in the five games he’d appeared in this season. The Bruins netminder seemed ready to reward his coach’s confidence when he’d backstopped Boston to a 2-0 lead after two periods with 22 saves in a shutout performance.

Alas all good things must come to an end and Khudobin began unraveling with little more than eight minutes to go in the third period en route to a 3-2 loss to the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center.

“I could have stopped a couple of them at least . . . the third goal. With a 2-2 tie there’s a shot we could save that and get it into overtime. They were good goals, but I think I could have stopped any of them,” said Khudobin. “They’re a good team. I didn’t think they would give up in the second period.

“Maybe we could say that we were a little tired in the third period because we were playing 2-in-2, but we can’t blame it on anything. A loss is a loss.”

The first goal allowed was a beautiful cross-ice pass from Kris Letang to Chris Kunitz for a one-time bullet from the right face-off dot, and after that the floodgates opened up.

The second one arrived 51 seconds after the first one as a neutral zone turnover became a Beau Bennett/James Neal/Brandon Sutter fast break into the Boston defense zone with Sutter sneaking a shot inside the far post. By that time the tiring Bruins skaters were rattled.

The normally reliable Dennis Seidenberg made an ill-advised pass across the ice that was intercepted by Sutter, and the Penguins youngster snapped a puck past Khudobin for the crushing game-winning score. It was too bad as the winning Pittsburgh barrage in the final 7 minutes wiped out two periods of good work by the Russian rookie, and left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

“[Khudobin] kept us in the game, especially in the second period. He was making some really big saves,” said Claude Julien. “He put us in a good position going into the third period, but the breakdowns in front of him eventually caught up to him.

“I thought he played well tonight. Unfortunately Tuukka was battling the flu last night, so [Khudobin] stepped in and gave us a chance to win.”

The game will likely become a learning experience for Khudobin, who was brilliant while shutting down James Neal and Pascal Dupuis on several forays to the net throughout the game. It was the backup goaltender’s scrambling save on a Neal blast from the right circle that had many thinking that perhaps it was going to be Khudobin’s kind of night.

That didn’t turn out to be the case on Tuesday night, but the No. 1 goaltender of Kazakhstan will certainly get plenty more chances this season while establishing himself as an NHL goaltender.