Trailing 3-1 with just over two minutes left in the third period, the Boston Bruins (7-4-0) tried to pull off another improbable comeback that the team has had a flare for in recent history.
After late goals by Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen made it a two goal deficit late in the game, the Bruins pulled goaltender Tuukka Rask, getting the extra man on the ice in hopes of tying the game. The desperation move paid off shortly after; a faceoff win by Patrice Bergeron in Pittsburgh’s zone led to a rocket slap shot by Jarome Iginla that got by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 1:43 remaining in the game.
After gaining possession following the goal, the Bruins pulled Rask again but were unable to net the tying goal despite putting a lot of pressure on Pittsburgh. Fleury had to make a nice last second save on David Krejci after a cross crease pass from Milan Lucic. For Fleury, it was his twenty-first save on the night, and it sealed the victory for the Pittsburgh Penguins (9-4-0).
The Penguins started the game as one would expect coming off their embarrassing showing in last year’s playoffs, being swept by the Bruins 4-0 in the Conference Finals. While the Pens skaters definitely had a little extra motivation, the Bruins lack of physicality through most of the first two periods hurt Boston.
After the game, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara spoke about the team’s early struggles. “We played with too much hesitation. We were not playing as well as we could have done. We were not jumping on loose pucks and when you’re playing a team like this, they’re going to take advantage of that. We did a better job in the third, but that’s how you have to play for 60, not just for the last 20.”
Tuukka Rask made some nice saves early in the game to keep the Bruins in the game despite the slow start. Two of those saves included one on one chances with Penguins talented center Evgeni Malkin. Rask was up to the task on both opportunities, and for Boston coach Claude Julien, it was not surprising seeing Tuukka keep the team in the game.
“[Rask] was good. Especially in that first period more than the second,” Julien said after the loss. “He certainly held us in there, and that’s what Tuukka’s done for us this year.”
After a scoreless first, the Penguins scored on the power-play, 06:54 in the second period. The Chris Kunitz goal came off a nifty backhander through his own legs past Rask after Kunitz knocked down a deflected Sidney Crosby shot. It was the Bruins fifth straight goal allowed on the penalty kill.
While the recent poor play down a man is concerning, coach Julien was not blaming the loss on that power-play goal allowed. “That’s not where the issue lies with me tonight, it’s more about we didn’t play to our identity. We didn’t play a heavy game tonight, for two periods at least. And when we did in the third, it made a difference.”
Trailing 1-0 after two periods, the Bruins were finally able to get one past Fleury, scoring 01:05 into the third period. Bergeron scored his third goal of the year when he deflected a Dennis Seidenberg shot from the blue line. The Bruins maintained their good play for most of the final period, but a few opportunistic plays by the Penguins helped them regain the lead.
Although Boston outplayed Pittsburgh in the final period, they were just not able to overcome their poor play in the first two periods.
The B’s traveled back to Boston after the loss, and will face the Anaheim Ducks (10-3-0) Thursday night at the TD Garden. Backup goalie Chad Johnson will likely be in net for the Bruins as they hope to end their mini two game losing streak.