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No Winter Classic; Penguins Waste Solid Effort in 2-1 Loss



BOSTON — The Pittsburgh Penguins generally go a few years between appearances in one of the NHL’s outdoors games.

It only seems like they sometimes go that long between solid 60-minute performances.

They appeared poised to take care of both Monday, taking a 1-0 lead into the third period of the league’s Winter Classic game at Fenway Park.

But the Bruins elevated their game to a level the Penguins couldn’t reach and got a pair of goals from winger Jake DeBrusk during the final 20 minutes to pull out a 2-1 victory.

“There’s a fine margin between winning and losing,” Teddy Blueger said. “There were just a couple of mistakes, breakdowns, missed opportunities, whatever. That’s the difference.”

The loss stretched the Penguins’ winless streak to 0-3-2 and leaves them tied with the New York Islanders for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division and eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

DeBrusk scored the game-winner at 17:36, beating Casey DeSmith with a backhander from close range.

DeSmith had entered the game after starter Tristan Jarry left the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury during the first period. Mike Sullivan said after the game that he did not have any information on Jarry’s injury.

The Penguins played their second game in a row without top-pairing defenseman Kris Letang, who is nursing an unspecified lower-body injury and who has left the team to be with his family in Montreal after his father died over the weekend.

They did, however, get Chad Ruhwedel back after a two-game absence, and Sullivan opted to dress him as an extra defenseman and go with 11 forwards, one fewer than usual. The move cost fourth-line winger Drew O’Connor his place in the lineup.

Neither team scored during the first period, when the Penguins ran up a 14-11 advantage in shots, even though the Penguins had to make a goalie change with 4 1/2 minutes to go before the intermission because of Jarry’s injury.

“It’s tough to lose a guy early in the game like that,” Sullivan said. “But I thought (DeSmith) competed hard in there for us.”

The start of the game was relatively low-event, but both clubs came within a few inches of scoring about 12 minutes in.

After DeBrusk hit the post behind Jarry, play moved to the other end and Jake Guentzel put a shot past Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark, only to have it carom off the post.

The Bruins got the only power play of the period when Teddy Blueger was called for boarding at 17:33.

With one of their primary penalty-killers in the box, the Penguins used Kasperi Kapanen and Sidney Crosby on a couple of their shorthanded units. Kapanen logged a total of one minute, 41 seconds of playing time, in the period 42 seconds of which came on that penalty-kill.

P.O Joseph was penalized for interference at 2:24 of the second, but that manpower disadvantage was negated when Boston’s David Pastrnak went for holding at 2:34.

The Penguins subsequently had a full power play when Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm went off for high-sticking at 4:38, but were unable to capitalize on it.

They did, however, grab a 1-0 lead at 8:40, when Kasperi Kapanen — who made it clear to PHN Monday that he’s aware of the scathing criticism he’s received on social media — beat Ullmark from the inner edge of the right circle for his sixth of the season.

Kapanen’s goal was assisted by Danton Heinen, who did not have a point in his previous seven games, and Jeff Carter, who had one assist in his previous 11.

Kapanen had a chance to get his second of the afternoon at 14:38, but was unable to beat Ullmark from below the right hash.

The Penguins got a power play 71 seconds into the third, but did not generate any significant scoring chances.

Boston got another chance with the extra man when Brian Dumoulin was called for tripping at 5:40, and the Penguins kept the Bruins reasonably at bay for most of that penalty.

Just six seconds after Dumoulin left the box, however, Boston pulled even when DeBrusk, positioned at the right side of the crease, got a pass from Brad Marchand before sweeping a shot past DeSmith.

The goal was made possible when Marchand deked around Carter at the right point, allowing him to get the puck to DeSmith.

The Penguins pushed to force overtime after DeBrusk scored what proved to be the game-winner, and thought they had forced overtime with a late goal, but the puck entered the Boston net after time had expired.

“It was obviously a real competitive hockey game,” Sullivan said. “It was an even hockey game. There’s a fine line between winning and losing, and we ended up on the wrong side of it tonight.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins will not play again until Thursday, when they will visit Vegas at 10:08 p.m. They will close out their three-game road trip Sunday at 7:08 p.m. at Arizona.