PITTSBURGH – The Bruins coaching staff showed the ultimate trust in Anton Khudobin while giving him the start against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the backup goaltender almost paid them back for their efforts.
The Bruins scored a pair of goals in the first period to get the jump on Pittsburgh, and then watched Khudobin stop everything until the third period in a 3-2 loss to the Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center. The loss denies the Bruins a golden chance to jump into first place in the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference.
The Bruins hopped on the board early with the game’s first power play, and Zdeno Chara made it a successful one by getting a bomb from the right point through traffic and past Marc-Andre Fleury. Nearly nine minutes later Tyler Seguin scored his ninth of the season on a goal-scorer’s shot from the slot after accepting a perfect feed from Patrice Bergeron behind the net.
That was it as far as scoring went for the Bruins. After that Boston simply hung on against a motivated Penguins crew and watched their back-up goaltender make save after save through the first 50 minutes of the game. It was an impressive performance against a hockey club that leads the NHL while averaging 3.6 goals per game, but it was also smoke and mirrors as the Pens were out-shooting the Bruins by a 31-13 margin.
The B’s PK unit did the dirty work in the middle of the third period while shutting down a Pittsburgh 5-on-3 advantage with penalties called on Bergeron (tripping) and Khudobin (high-sticking). But a few minutes late the Penguins started hitting against a Bruins team with tired legs on the second night of back-to-back games.
Chris Kunitz scored the first goal on a sizzling one-timer from the right face-off dot, and then Brandon Sutter added two more with Boston deep onto their heels simply trying to hang on for a win.
GOLD STAR: Brandon Sutter swooped in and stole the honors at the last minute with two goals in the final 5:27 of the game to tie things up and then pot the game-winner against the Bruins. It was the seventh and eighth goals of the season for Sutter and both were wrist shots that befuddled Anton Khudobin on their way to the back of the net. The game winning strike was a great example of two-way play when he intercepted a cross-ice outlet pass by Dennis Seidenberg and buried a high wrist shot. Sutter finished with three shots on net and a plus-2 and won 9-of-15 face-offs as the only Penguins to win his share of draws in the game. He is living, breathing proof that that this Pittsburgh team is clearly deep enough to overwhelm other hockey clubs, particularly if they’re on the second night of back-to-back games.
BLACK EYE: Four shots on net and a minus-2 apiece for Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and David Krejci in the loss, and virtually no offensive presence for a line that thrives on offensive possession and generating chances. Krejci was actually okay in the game outside of getting worked in the face-off circle while losing 11-of-15 draws, but Lucic and Horton looked like they were dragging tired legs on the ice for every shift. For the second game in a row Horton missed wide on an easy offensive chance that could have been a difference in the game. He looks like he’s going through one of those “quiet” periods that he routinely has during a season.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins started to give way in the second period, and it all came crumbling down in the final 20 minutes as the Penguins out-shot the Bruins by a 12-4 margin and took it a tiring B’s bunch. Pitt really smelled blood once Chris Kunitz broke through for Pens’ first goal of the game, and the momentum buckled the B’s defense and goaltending down the stretch after that. The defense corps had some bad, unforced turnovers and Anton Khudobin probably needs to stop one of those Brandon Sutter goals that tied it and put Pittsburgh ahead.
HONORABLE MENTION: The Bruins penalty kill blanked the Penguins on all three tries and showed exactly why they’re the NHL’s best by shutting down a 5-on-3 advantage for Pittsburgh that lasted over a minute in the third period. Unfortunately the Bruins crumbled and collapsed after that in epic fashion while losing the game, but the PK was once again something to brag about. Jay Pandolfo did a good job of jumping in and filling in for an injured Chris Kelly, and the rest of the usual suspects did their job.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3-out-of-4 – the number of times in their regulation losses this season that the Bruins have blown a lead in the third period. That is not Boston Bruins hockey.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “In the end there were too many turnovers in our own end like mine that led to [Pittsburgh’s] third goal. We need to make safer passes." –the ever accountable Dennis Seidenberg accepting responsibility for an ill-conceived pass in the final two minutes of the third period that led to Brandon Sutter’s game-winning goal.