The Pittsburgh Penguins finally had a letdown game. The team which has played with heart and energy for more than two months while injuries mounted just didn’t have it Thursday night but the Boston Bruins did. Boston responded to challenges to their heart earlier this week after they didn’t physically respond when their goalie Tuuka Rask was concussed by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Boston attacked the Penguins and the puck. Most of it was legal. When it wasn’t, the Penguins failed to convert on four power plays as Boston beat the Penguins 4-1 at TD Gardens Arena.
Sidney Crosby continued his momentum from Tuesday night. After a four-point night, Crosby scored just 24 seconds into the game. Winger Dominik Simon raced out of the defensive zone and zipped a cross-ice pass to Crosby at center ice. Crosby (7) did the rest with a slap shot from the left-wing circle which beat Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak.
The highlights ended there for the Penguins, except for a handful of impressive saves by Tristan Jarry.
“There were certain points where it felt like we got outplayed, we definitely had some chances,” Crosby said. “We could have got back in the game but overall, if you look at our power play and zone time in general, they probably controlled more.”
Boston did, including taking nearly 80% of the shot attempts in the second period.
The first period was penalty laden, but the first Boston goal was at even strength. Midway through the period, Sean Kuraly’s (4) wrist shot from the wall deflected off Jack Johnson’s leg as he defended an oncoming rusher.
Two minutes later, Par Lindholm capitalized after Boston won several puck battles in the Penguins zone. Penguins Teddy Blueger and Marcus Pettersson were each the victim of lost battles. Defenseman Karson Kuhlman pushed a shot-pass towards the net and Lindholm (3) neatly deflected it top-shelf over Jarry.
The second period was not kind to the Penguins as they squandered a couple of power plays but failed to create offensive pressure. The period was again penalty laden and Patric Hornqvist dropped the gloves against Boston defenseman Tory Krug. The fight came several minutes after the pair were called for roughing penalties for roughhousing in front of the benches.
“I think we’ll see that a lot. They’re not the first team or the last that’s going to try to be physical,” Crosby said. “We had times when we were able to get some good hits in too. That’s hockey.”
Boston’s top line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and NHL leading goal scorer David Pastrnak created several Grade-A chances, but Jarry was very good for the Penguins. Boston had only 12 shots in the period but largely controlled territory and the puck.
Halak did make a few saves on the Penguins in the final 10 seconds of the second period. Bryan Rust and Zach Aston-Reese had a two-on-none. Halak made the initial save on Rust, then stopped a pair of rebound chances by Aston-Reese.
The Pittsburgh Penguins had just three shots on goal at even strength in the second period. They never did get their offense on track as Boston pressured them all over the ice. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (20) whistled a top-corner wrist shot past Jarry just three minutes into the third period.
Both teams calmed in the third period but the Penguins were not able to access the energy and determination which has propelled them to within four points of the Metro Division lead until it was too late. The Penguins applied heavy pressure in the final minutes with the extra attacker but could not get a second goal.
Brad Marchand settled the matter with the empty-net goal.
Jarry made 26 saves on 29 shots. The Penguins managed 26 shots but Halak stopped all but one.
The game was the first of two on the annual Pittsburgh Penguins Father’s Trip. The group of dads will go with the team to Detroit on Friday.