The Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled to hold leads this season, surrendering points in a number of games in which they were ahead.
On some level then, nothing that happened at TD Garden Thursday night was particularly surprising.
Except maybe that, after allowing a 5-2 advantage over the team that began the evening atop the overall standings to melt away, the Penguins (19-14-4) found a way to rally and leave the building with a couple of badly needed points.
Predictably enough, Sidney Crosby produced the deciding goal, breaking a 5-5 tie with a power-play goal at 11:19 of the third period. He already had assisted on two others.
Crosby had controlled the game-opening faceoff against Bruins center Charlie Coyle, and it looked for a time as if that might be the high point of the first period for the Penguins.
They showed symptoms of Early-Onset Ineptitude for the second game in a row, allowing another goal during the first minute of play. Boston winger Brad Marchand got it 41 seconds into the period — that’s 14 fewer than Washington’s Tom Wilson needed to score Tuesday — when he swatted a David Pastrnak rebound past Alex Nedeljkovic from in front of the net.
After the Penguins regained their equilibrium, Drew O’Connor pulled them even at 5:04. He got behind Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk at the right side of the crease and knocked in the carom of a Kris Letang shot from the right point for his fifth of the season.
Lars Eller got the second assist.
Defenseman Ryan Graves, who had just been demoted to the third pairing, put the Penguins in front, 2-1, at 6:17, as his shot from the high slot caromed off Coyle and eluded Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman.
Crosby and Rickard Rakell received assists on the goal, Graves’ second.
The Bruins countered just 22 seconds later, as Pastrnak threw a backhander past Nedeljkovic from in front after pulling the puck from his forehand while moving out of the right circle.
Jake Guentzel put the Penguins back on top at 7:21, driving to the net and steering in a pass from Crosby, who was in the right circle. Letang got the second assist on the goal, Guentzel’s 18th.
Those were the fastest five goals from the start of a game in the NHL this season.
O’Connor had a chance to pad the Pittsburgh Penguins’ advantage a few minutes later, when he got a 2-on-0 break with Eller while P.O Joseph was serving a high-sticking minor, but he was unable to beat Swayman.
He teamed up with Eller again at 15:58, with a much more satisfying result.
O’Connor slid a pass to Eller near the bottom of the right circle, and he buried a shot behind Swayman for his seventh. The second assist went to Erik Karlsson.
The Penguins failed to capitalize while Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo was serving a minor for high-sticking Jansen Harkins, but got their fifth goal two seconds after his penalty expired.
Jeff Carter, positioned in front of the net, chipped a Letang rebound by Swayman at 6:38 for his fifth of the season and second in the past four games. Bryan Rust picked up the second assist.
Guentzel nearly made it 6-2 less than a minute later, but his shot slammed off the post after getting past Swayman.
The Bruins made the most of that reprieve when Morgan Geekie beat Nedeljkovic from inside the right circle at 9:51 on the Bruins’ first shot of the period.
Boston then whittled the Penguins’ lead to one with 35.8 seconds to go before the intermission, as Carlo hammered a shot past Nedeljkovic from the right point.
Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy was sent off for delay of game at 1:38 of the third, giving the Penguins an opportunity to recapture the momentum, but Boston recorded the only goal while he was in the penalty box.
Marchand scored it when he got around Letang and flipped a shot past Nedeljkovic high on the stick side at 3:08 to make it 5-5.
It was the fifth shorthanded goal the Penguins have allowed in 2023-24 and the first Boston has scored.
McAvoy was penalized again, this time for hooking, at 11:12, and the man-advantage turned out a lot better for the Penguins than the previous one had.
Just seven seconds later, Crosby put a shot through traffic and past Swayman from the top of the left circle for his 22nd goal — three of them game-winners — of the season.
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery replaced Swayman with an extra attacker for the final 2:41 of regulation, and Boston pressed hard to force overtime — the Penguins lost four consecutive faceoffs after Swayman went to the bench — but the Penguins managed to hold them off.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a scheduled day off Friday before facing Buffalo Saturday at 7:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.