With five games in seven days, the Pittsburgh Penguins probably expected a few bumps and bruises. They probably didn’t expect the percolating street fight with the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. A key injury, a key ejection, and Boston forward Trent Frederic’s wrist shot through traffic sunk the Penguins six-game win streak. Boston won 2-1 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.
The Penguins game elevated from physical to outright chippy after Boston defenseman Jared Tinordi’s solid open-ice hit on Penguin star Evgeni Malkin early in the first period.
Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith made his ninth start of the season. Boston gave 23-year-old rookie Dan Vladar his NHL debut. Penguins center Teddy Blueger was a surprise scratch. The goalies did their job, but the story of the game was two thunderous hits.
“We’ve been on such a good run, we’re not going to let this affect us,” DeSmith said.
Evgeni Malkin has scored in every game this March. However, early in the first period, Tinordi crunched Malkin in the corner. It was a clean hit with a bad result.
Malkin left the ice and went to the locker room. He returned for one power-play shift, but he left the ice again and did not return.
With seven minutes remaining in the second period, Brandon Tanev took some revenge on Tinordi. Tanev raced the width of the ice along the red line and slammed Tinordi into the wall, just as Tinordi released the puck for a dump-in.
Tinordi’s back and head slammed into the wall, and he crumpled to the ice. Officials assessed Tanev a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Scary sight here after Tinordi slams into the boards. pic.twitter.com/PZSf7Hne90
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 17, 2021
Officials reviewed the call, and it stood to the vociferous displeasure of the 2800 fans at PPG Paints Arena.
(Sorry yinz, I thought it was a charging major, but it’s the same hit Zach Aston-Reese put on Dylan Cozens, but with a running start. You’d be REALLY upset if Marchand did that to a Penguins defenseman).
The make-shift Penguins PK unit was without Teddy Blueger and Tanev, the team’s top two penalty killers, yet the Penguins allowed only a few shots on goal and no high-danger chances. Mark Jankowski had a breakaway, and Sidney Crosby almost had a break.
The teams traded goals in the first period. Boston scored first on a pretty power-play rush just three minutes into the game. David Pastrnak (13) streaked into the Penguins zone behind defenseman Brian Dumoulin and slipped a backhander through DeSmith.
The Penguins game eventually gained speed. In the middle of the opening period, Evan Rodrigues deflected Kasperi Kapanen’s shot. Vladar made the initial save, but Brandon Tanev (7) slammed it into a waiting net.
Unlike Monday night, the Penguins were not badly outshot, as the shot clock stayed close to even, despite the Bruins five-minute power play in the second period.
On Monday night, the Bruins outshot the Penguins 43-26. The Penguins outshot Boston 35-33 on Tuesday.
However, in the middle of the third period, Bruins forward Trent Frederic made a late change. He yelled for the puck as he raced into the Penguins zone behind the play. Frederic (4) found a little space in the high slot and ripped it past DeSmith.
“There was a double screen there. I looked around it on the short-side,” DeSmith said. “I could tell from his release he was going far side. I slid over but it didn’t hit me.”
In the end, the Penguins didn’t have the necessary offensive depth to mount a credible challenge. DeSmith stopped 31 of 33 shots. Dan Vladar stopped 34 of 35 shots in his NHL debut, including a lunging stick save on Colton Sceviour.
The Penguins game was bottled by the Boston defensive strategy. And without Malkin, the top line with Sidney Crosby knew they had to carry the offense and did their best. Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust combined for 14 shots.
The Penguins’ penalty kill did allow a power-play goal, but they killed the five-minute major to Tanev and gave the Penguins momentum and a chance.
Colton Sceviour had one of his finest games. He was noticeable, and that’s not always the case. Sceviour hung onto pucks and played hard low.
This won’t be popular, but Tanev’s hit was absolutely a penalty. A player cannot launch an opponent violently into the boards. Those are the exact adjectives used in the rule book. Tanev did just that.
Instead of taking a run at him, the better thing would have been to drop the mitts.