PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins continued the physicality and defensive prowess they’ve shown for several weeks. Jared McCann scored on a shorthanded breakaway. The Penguins earned several more breakaways and odd-man rushes as they poured cold water on the Boston Bruins league-high 19-game points streak, 4-2 at PPG Paints Arena.
Boston, which has scored goals in the final minute of their last two contests did so again, Sunday which forced the Penguins to breathe heavy over the final minute. The Penguins missed several chances at the Boston empty net before McCann ended it.
He takes heat from fans who wish he would light the lamp more often, and truthfully, so does he. Penguins forward Dominik Simon set the wheels in motion for the Penguins first goal, just two minutes into the game.
Simon chased and caught the Bruins rush before it left the offensive zone. He created a turnover for Patric Hornqvist who fired it towards Nick Bjugstad who battled Boston forward David Krejci for position. Bjugstad (10) won the battle ad dunked the puck in the net.
Krejci didn’t have a memorable first period.
Shorthanded goals have submarined the Penguins chances this season. However, in the first period it was the Penguins who earned cheers not groans with a shortie. Jared McCann had a clean breakaway from the Penguins blue line after he swiped the puck from Krejci. McCann hit top speed, threw his front foot out as a rudder and a deke. McCann (15) turned it over to the backhand for a 2-0 Penguins lead.
“(Blueger) made a great read on that guy. He jumped him and created a loose puck. I knew he was going to make a pass to me, so I took off as fast as I could,” McCann said before he laughed as the media asked about the backhand deke. McCann credited backup goalie Casey DeSmith for working with him after practices.
After the first 13 minutes, the Penguins were outshooting Boston, 13-2. In the first 20 minutes, the Penguins also owned the scoring chance battle with an 85 percent ratio (12-2).
Krejci did earn one back just a few minutes into the second period. With Penguins defenseman Zach Trotman sitting in the penalty box for slashing, Boston capitalized on a scramble in front of the Penguins net. Danton Heinen slid a loose puck to the back side for the waiting Krejci who snapped it into the yawning cage.
As dangerous as the Penguins were in the first period, they were as docile in the second. The Penguins needed 10:24 to get their second shot on goal–a span which also included a power play. However, once they found a rhythm the Penguins again pushed Boston, later in the second period.
Penguins winger Teddy Blueger drew a penalty later in the second after he danced around one defender and charged towards the net. Brandon Carlo tripped Blueger and the Penguins power play, which was otherwise powerless finally converted.
After giving up a shorthanded chance to Brad Marchand, the Penguins raced to the Boston zone. Sidney Crosby laid the puck in front of Jake Guentzel deep in the Boston zone. Guentzel (34) neatly flipped to the forehand with precious little space and went top shelf for a 3-1 Penguins lead.
The Penguins returned to their heavy backchecking game and took away space again in the third period. Boston was able to shoot but primarily from the perimeter as chants of “Murray, Murray” began in the third period for Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
“It’s playoff hockey from here on out, so it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing against, what the score was last night, or whatever,” Murray said after he stopped 39 of 41. “We definitely wanted to have that mindset, for sure.”
Murray improved to 23-11-3.
The Penguins began to pile up the odd-man breaks and breakaways later in the third period. Evgeni Malkin slipped past Carlo at the Boston blue line for a breakaway. Jaroslav Halak deflected the puck just enough for a save. As Malkin skated away he took a full baseball swing at the boards.
Malkin remains only two points shy of 1000 in his career.
The win put the Penguins in third place in the Metro Division, two points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes who now have one game in hand on the Penguins.