While the Bruins would have preferred to win Tuesdays showdown with the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was no denying the difference in motivation between the two teams.
The Penguins still have a No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference to protect and they helped do just that with a 5-3 win over the Bruins at TD Garden.
To a man the Bruins assured they were trying to put their best foot forward, and there was plenty of evidence supporting that when Boston came back from a 2-0 deficit to make a hockey game out of it in the second period. There was no sitting back and relaxing from the Black and Gold despite having their entire postseason lives locked up.
You still want to go into the playoffs feeling good about yourselves and when you let your guard down, thats when you do get hurt. Thats what we talked about going into the game, said Milan Lucic. Were a team with a lot of pride and were not just going to fold a tent just because weve already clinched that second spot. We want to end the season off on a good note for ourselves and our fans. Thats what our mindset is going to be going into these next two games, as well.
Unfortunately the Penguins showed just what a handful theyll be in the playoffs for a number of reasons: James Neal scored his 40thgoal of the season and acted the part of a menace all night until Andrew Ference stood up to him, Sidney Crosby responded to Crosby Sucks chants and Mike Milbury-verbal barrages by potting a pair of goals in the necessary victory for Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh had all kinds of success with Evgeni Malkin registering a very silent 18 minutes of ice time.
The second-half of that equation is the number of calls that tend to go Pittsburghs way as part of the entire package facing Crosby and the Penguins in the playoffs. The Daniel Paille charging call on Matti Niskanen was borderline, but the fourth line winger did leave his skates upon impact.
But the high-sticking call on Kris Letang featured one of the worst embellishments youll see in the NHL, and the mockery of hockey manhood awarded Pittsburgh a 5-on-3 advantage that produced a pair of Pens goals at the end of the second period. That was the difference for Pittsburgh, and could be in the postseason as well.
A lot of times thats the difference in hockey games, when youre able to score on power plays and the way that we kill penalties. We do such a great job with that, its a big boost if we can score on the power play, said Crosby. It was nice to get those. Big boost from Nealer James Neal there with a good fight and I think were all happy to respond that way after that.
Clearly the Bruins will bring a little something extra if these two Eastern Conference titans end up meeting down the line in the playoffs, but the Bs got a pretty good indication of what awaits them from the Penguins.