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‘More a Man Now,’ Legare Infuriates Bruins, Propels Prospects to 6-4 Win

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Nathan Legare

BUFFALO — “They were yelling things from the bench after the first scrum,” Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Nathan Legare said with just a bit of a smirk.

The Penguins prospects team beat the Boston Bruins prospects, 6-4, Saturday at the Prospects Challenge at LECOM events Center. Legare goaded the Bruins into at least four penalties, including taking sucker-punches in the faceoff circle, forcing defensemen to rip him away from the Boston net several times, and turning in nearly three periods of agitating, physical play.

Legare was living rent-free on the Bruins’ bench from the first minutes, and he took full advantage.

“I was finishing my checks, going to the net and then sometimes getting under their skin,” said Legare. “Sometimes when you finish pretty hard checks, sometimes the guys on the other side are getting pissed off or stuff like that.”

Yes, Boston was pissed off. And stuff like that.

“I heard the (Boston) bench yelling at me and saying stuff. I was just focusing on myself, on the game. And after every whistle, they were just coming at me. I was ready and the referees were giving them some penalties,” Legare said.

He declined to tell PHN what the Bruins said.

“You can’t say those things on camera.”

 

Legare also scored the game-clinching goal in the third period, when he snapped a rebound past Bruins goalie Reid Dyck. He finished an assist short of a Dino Ciccarelli or Matthew Barnaby hat trick.

Longtime friend, juniors teammate, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins teammate Sam Poulin enjoyed Legare’s scene-stealing performance, too. Both were part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospects team in 2019, the last time the tournament was held.

“It was great. I know he can do it. I think he spent like 15 minutes in the box,” Poulin said to laughter. “He can’t do this every game, but once in a while, it’s great.”

It’s been a journey for Poulin and Legare, both 2019 draftees. Poulin was the first-rounder with the polished game. Legare, the raw project with scoring-winger potential.

“I’ve grown as a man a lot, just focusing on what I can control,” Legare said. “Sometimes when you’re a little bit younger — I’m still 21 years old — but I feel like I’m more a man now. Sometimes you focus too much on things you can’t control, referees or whatever. On and off the ice.”

The Penguins scored three power-play goals in the first period and another in the second. They held a commanding 4-0 lead before allowing Boston back into the game in the third period.

In addition to drawing two penalties with hard net-front play, Legare also took a few.

Poulin also played a strong game, literally and figuratively. He owned the net-front on the Penguins’ power plays, scoring the first goal from there, and even slipped behind the net to be a playmaker. The behind-the-net plays didn’t work, but he, too, created chaos with physical play.

But he didn’t draw Boston into three roughing calls, one fighting call with an ejection, and piles of ill feelings, as Legare did.

“I love it. I mean, he was all over the place and he was just playing hard, in-your-face, and it was nothing cheap. He was playing hard hockey,” coach J.D. Forrest said. “He just got under everybody’s skin real fast. They took some liberties with our goalie.

“He was right there in (the offending Boston player’s) face and he ends up scoring a big goal there at the end. When you play as hard as he did tonight and you’re at the net that often and you find those goals, I was really happy for him.”

Legare did not have a good rookie season with the WBS Penguins in 2021-22. The kid with heavy feet and a heavier wrister recorded only 16 points, including seven goals. He lost 10 pounds (again) this summer, but may have replaced those pounds with feistiness.

Years, nay hours, from now, the Penguins’ win will be meaningless. They played one game in a tournament, essentially an exhibition. However, with GM Ron Hextall, president of hockey operations Brian Burke, a contingent of scouts, and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan watching closely, Legare put on a show.

He may not score 20 goals at the NHL level. He may struggle to get past the AHL level. But in one day, he showed that he can do things to stand out, even if he’s not scoring. He agitated like a seasoned agitator.

While he didn’t score until late in the third period, several of the Penguins goals could be traced to Legare’s hard-nosed play.

It was fun to watch, too.

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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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Dave Heyl
Dave Heyl
11 days ago

I guess the NEW organization’s message has reached the Baby Pens, sandpaper players have a future.

Bachinga
Bachinga
11 days ago

Most players look at that tourney as House league hockey…but if you’re on the bubble…

Vince Gori
Vince Gori
11 days ago

These are performances a hockey program are made of. Between Legare, Poulin and Smoyer it seems the “feeder” program has a pulse.

Wasnt
11 days ago

Good for Legare, unfortunately if he puts on about 15 more pounds Sully will make sure he never plays for the Pens.
And who was in net that let in 4 goals in the third??