What could have and what should have been. The Pittsburgh Penguins had within their grasp a statement win. The jelling team could have surged past the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins for a road win. The Penguins could have hung their hat on a nearly 2-1 shot advantage and dominant 30 minutes of hockey. Could-have and should-have didn’t happen as the Boston top line, which has been toying with the NHL this season. They burned the Penguins for four goals and a 6-4 win at the TD Garden in Boston.
Goaltending burned the Penguins, too.
Penguins starter Matt Murray was mercifully yanked after a pair of softies in the first 25 minutes. The Penguins trailed 3-0 and despite play equality, needed a boost.
Mistakes also burned the Penguins. In the first period, the Penguins defensemen were in a giving mood. Leading to the first Murray softy was a Kris Letang turnover. Letang has been exceptional this season, but his short up-pass was easily intercepted. The Penguins second pairing wasn’t so smooth in its own zone either. For a second consecutive game, defenseman Marcus Pettersson stumbled at his blue line, which allowed a forward to zip past him for a short breakaway scoring chance.
Petterson-Justin Schultz pairing also couldn’t do enough with the puck in the defensive zone then left the front of the net open, which yielded the second Boston goal.
Those were the early mistakes before the Penguins found their groove and overwhelmed Boston for at least 30 minutes. The Penguins lit the lamp four times in the second period, but the who and how was more impressive than the what.
Tactically, the game had a different flavor than recent Penguins games, in part because their opponent didn’t need as many chances to put the puck in the net. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron are the best line in hockey, and they were spectacular Monday night. The resulting play was as interesting as it was exciting. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan chose to match power on power and lost that battle.