Pittsburgh Penguins winger Bryan Rust pumped both of his fists as he pointed to Evgeni Malkin. The pair celebrated the goal with as much intensity as had been generated by the Penguins languished start and improbable four-goal comeback. Malkin’s hard forecheck created a turnover in the Boston Bruins zone, then he set up Rust for the game-winning goal. The PPG Paints Arena crowd which had jeered their team in the first period lept to the feet. The Penguins erased a bad performance last Thursday night in Boston and a three-goal deficit to beat Boston 4-3.
Rust added to his career year with his 21st goal of the season.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray also overcame a sluggish start to erase several Boston scoring chances. Murray stopped 34 of 37 shots for his 15th win.
“That’s what this group has been about. The resilience and sticktoitiveness. And staying with it. It’s not always going to go your way out there,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
“It was a character win.”
In the first period, Boston was on the Penguins like dirty water on the harbor. Just 11 seconds into the game, the Boston top line which is also the highest-scoring unit in the league streaked past the still slumbering Penguins. In a defensive mess, Patrice Bergeron (21) was left alone below the right circle and snapped it past Penguins goalie Murray.
The Penguins defensive coverage didn’t improve in the following minutes. Two minutes into the game, Boston converted a three-on-two when Penguins forwards didn’t get back and their defensemen didn’t cover, well, anyone. Boston RW Anders Bjork (8) had an open shot inside the hashmarks and beat Murray point-blank.
“(The coaches) didn’t have to say anything or yell at us. We all knew as a team that we’re not going the right way,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We came out flat, so we just had to regroup.”
Moments later, fans unhappy that Murray got the start over NHL All-Star Tristan Jarry gave Murray an uncharacteristic Bronx cheer when he steered aside a dump-in attempt.
“No comment,” Murray said regarding the mock cheers.
However, things didn’t improve in the first period. Midway through the period, the Boston top line struck again. Brad Marchand sneaked to the side of the net. As Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson attempted to disrupt the pass, he instead tipped it past Murray into the Penguins net.
The Penguins did get one back courtesy of Sidney Crosby who now has points in each of the four games since his return from injury. Behind the net, Crosby’s misdirection fooled Boston netminder Jaro Halak. A moment later, Crosby set up Dominik Simon (6) for a tight-angle wrister into the open net.
Simon has four points (2g, 2a) in four games since Crosby returned.
The Penguins were better in the second period. Moments after killing Teddy Blueger’s hooking penalty which straddled the periods, Blueger got a little redemption. Crosby played a rebound off the boards into a no-look pass through his legs to Blueger (7) who charged into the zone. Blueger quickly deked to the forehand and the Penguins were only down 3-2.
Crosby has eight points (3g, 5a) in the last four games.
The Penguins thoroughly dominated puck possession in the second period but were only able to get the quick goal and 11 shots. Of course, there was also the obligatory Brad Marchand agitating as he grabbed defenseman Kris Letang’s legs and added a couple of extra shots on the ice, too.
With emotions rising and physicality escalating, Johnson made good for his earlier own-goal. Early in the third period, after Letang was assessed a questionable elbowing minor for mostly missing Marchand. The Penguins penalty killers transitioned a turnover into a three-on-two as Johnson raced to be the third.
The stay-at-home defenseman (3) unleashed a heavy slapshot from the slot for the tying goal.
The Penguins had only five shots in the third period and 23 overall.
Dominik Kahun and Dominik Simon were both injured. Simon was evaluated after the game for a lower body injury. Kahun was evaluated for an upper-body injury.