The Pittsburgh Penguins have looked just this side of well-done. Before their four-day rest, they had only three wins in their previous 10 games and served a few easy wins to prime competitors in the Eastern Conference. Everything looked different for the Penguins on Thursday night, from backchecking to protecting the net-front to prevent second chances.
Head coach Mike Sullivan felt his team was “pretty good” with the details. On Thursday, the scoreboard reflected the Penguins renewed effort in a 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins at PPG Paints Arena. Jake Guentzel had a hat trick, and Casey DeSmith was unbeatable.
UPDATE: Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said Jeff Carter is being evaluated for a lower-body injury.
In the first period, Sullivan got Sidney Crosby and the Penguins’ top line away from Selke center Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. The move paid dividends in the Penguins’ first goal and five scoring chances in the first period.
It also freed the Penguins to find their momentum and the upper hand, something they never had against the Bruins last Saturday in a 2-1 loss at TD Garden.
By the third period, Sullivan matched Crosby with Bergeron to keep the “Perfection Line” in check. Boston had 22 shots in the third period, but DeSmith made initial saves, and defenders did the rest.
“They throw a lot of pucks from all over the place. They’re a team that looks for those second-chance rebounds. They throw in from the boards…they’re just throwing pucks everywhere at the net, and they create a lot of havoc around there. So it was a great job by Casey,” Jason Zucker, who scored his eighth goal of the season, said. “I thought our defense cleared the net-front really well…”
There were a handful of genuine chalkboard wrinkles and things the Penguins did differently, including winning net-front battles. Those things will bode well for the playoffs. And the goaltender’s performance helped a lot, too. It’s a fun report card.