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“Character Win,” Pens Bean Bruins 6-5; Postgame & Analysis



Pittsburgh Penguins Kris Letang

Neither starting goaltender will remember Sunday night’s game warmly. The Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back games for the first time since November, and feel good about the way they did it. The Pittsburgh Penguins collected a wild 6-5 win over the Boston Bruins, Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray stopped Brad Marchand’s penalty shot with just one minute left in the game, and Evgeni Malkin provided the game-winner in overtime. The win carried extra emotion as the team lept off the bench for a mid-ice celebration.

The Penguins scored three first-period goals. The Bruins scored four second-period goals.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang called it a “character win.” The Bruins second period was, “a wakeup call. We started tightening up our game,” said the Penguins top defenseman.

Tristan Jarry started in goal for the Penguins, in place of starter Matt Murray who struggled over the past month. Our Joe Steigerwald analyzed those rough numbers. Jarry was stellar in the first period but was rocked in the second.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was not sharp in the first and allowed a few softies, too.

Trailing 1-0 a few minutes into the first period, Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (3) one-timed a shot from the right point past Rask. Rask was screened or lost his position, as Rask didn’t take the angle on the shot. 1-1.

Midway through the opening period, Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk negated a Penguins scoring chance by tackling Sidney Crosby. Phil Kessel (18) snared a power-play goal from the top of the circle. 2-1. Crosby assisted.

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan tried to describe the ethereal Penguins power play which now leads the league at 26.6%.

“They have a framework,” he said, “but even we sometimes don’t know what they’re going to do.”

With six minutes remaining in the first period, Kris Letang (3) also beat Rask with a long-range one-timer. 3-1. Crosby also earned his second assist of the period.

3 Goals in 4:56

However, the second period was more reminiscent of the Penguins recent play.

Seven minutes into the second period, Patrice Bergeron won a faceoff in the Penguins zone. Brad Marchand (17) immediately fired the puck past Jarry. 3-2.

Exactly one minute later, the Bruins erased the Penguins lead. On the rush, Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo wristed the puck from high in the offensive zone, through a mess of bodies and legs. The puck hit Jarry in the chest but still lit the lamp. 3-3.

The Bruins continued the attack. After an active first period, Kris Letang was again in a giving mood. David Pastrnak intercepted Letang’s cross-ice breakout pass. Pastrnak (17) circled the Penguins net–uncontested–and wristed the puck over Jarry, who was down on the paddle. 4-3.

The Bruins chased Jarry from the game with three minutes remaining in the period. From the midwall, David Backes sent the puck toward the net. Jarry was down, and the puck cleared his shoulder. 5-3.

Out went Jarry. In came Murray.

The Penguins regained some life in the closing seconds of the period. Evgeni Malkin was alone in the slot and one-timed a Crosby pass. A power-play goal. 5-4.

Riley Sheahan, yes, Riley Sheahan tied the game early in the third period with an unassisted goal. Sheahan grabbed a loose puck at center and raced into the Bruins zone. Despite being covered, he fired a wrister from low in the circle which beat Rask short side. 5-5.

In the closing minute, Oleksiak was fooled by Marchand at the Penguins blue line. Marchand took the resulting space for a breakaway, but Oleksiak slashed the Little Ball of Hate before he could shoot it.

Marchand was awarded a penalty shot. He deked to the backhand, but Murray made the save.

“I thought he had me there,” said Murray. “I was able to get my back leg on it.”

The Penguins dominated the puck in overtime. Malkin beat Rask from the left wing circle, and it was finally over.

The Penguins allowed only six shots after Jarry was pulled. Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked Murray if he could recall a six-save win in his career.

He thought for a second before chuckling, “I don’t know, probably not…no,” said the lanky netminder.

Crosby and Malkin each had three points. Letang said, “Our leaders took over.” Yes, they did.

Postgame Analysis and Press Box Nachos

–The Penguins center ice celebration was an eruption of emotion. They have struggled. They know they have struggled, and have been exasperated because they haven’t had the answers, either.

The Penguins squandered a promising start but showed dominance in immediately after Murray got the call.

–Kris Letang. Erase the second period, and you could make a strong case the Penguins core defenseman is back. But, you can’t erase a period.

Letang, like the Penguins, is close to finding his form. But, when he or the team is off…oh boy.

–Daniel Sprong described the level of detail he gets from Crosby on the bench. The pair had a two-on-one in the first period. Crosby not only explained to Sprong to slow down but where to slow down.

Sprong was credited with three hits and was even seen backchecking. The three hits are more impressive than his second goal, Friday night.

This version of Sprong has little resemblance to one in WBS. I’m not sure how long it will last–10 days or 10 years, but this version is a good hockey player, even if rough.

–So, uh, are you still loving Jarry and hating Murray?

The point is, relax on the goalies. The Penguins defensive struggles have been extraordinary. Shooters have had time and space to pick Murray apart like good southern fried chicken. That leads to a dip in confidence, whether Murray knows it or not.

As the Penguins raise their play, so will Murray.

–No, I don’t know why Ian Cole was scratched. Perhaps the Penguins will use the bye week to deal Cole. Matt Hunwick got the sweater instead, Sunday night.

Hunwick watched Ryan Spooner score the Bruins first goal, from the Penguins doorstep. It was a glaring error.

–Could the Penguins surge be as simple as getting Crosby engaged by playing with the kids? Could the kids be like Mentos in Diet Coke?

However–the Penguins MUST fix their third line, pronto. Asking Guentzel to own the spot isn’t good enough.

Sheahan is a solid fourth line center. His scoring and game are more fitting there…

–Pittsburgh Hockey Now will have content all week! Shelly Anderson is working on a piece about Crosby and Sprong you must read. Drop us a note below if there are any topics you’d like covered. We do want to be more interactive in 2018. Some really cool things are coming…. Really cool!

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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