Sometimes, it’s not your night and sometimes you give it away. Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins experienced a combination of those factors as the team appeared to take a breath one game after Sidney Crosby returned to the lineup. The Boston Bruins won puck battles and the Penguins didn’t respond to the intense Boston puck pressure. Boston answered the bell from their paying public and media who loudly criticized them this week and beat the Penguins 4-1 at TD Garden.
The Penguins are 0-7-1 at the TD Garden.
Boston, the city not the team, called out the Bruins for their failure to wallop someone after goalie Tuuka Rask was run by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Rask suffered a concussion but the perception was Boston — the team not the city — didn’t respond.
So, Boston had an ax to grind with themselves and something to prove. The Penguins just happened to be the team in their way.
“I don’t think (the physicality) was the difference in the game, if that’s what you’re asking,” Sullivan grimaced. “I don’t think we were good enough (Thursday).”
The Penguins had more hits than Boston and weren’t deterred by the physical play, though Boston forward Chris Wagner put a couple of Penguins in vulnerable spots and probably deserved a little talking-to. Eventually, Patric Hornqvist and Boston defenseman Tory Krug were called for roughing penalties, then dropped the gloves after they were freed from the penalty box.
Sullivan was correct. Don’t overplay the physical nature. The Penguins are big boys who have been through a few battles. They didn’t turtle or shy away. It was a matter of desperation and energy, instead.
“We didn’t have the jump that we normally have,” Sullivan rightly pointed out. “We didn’t make as many clean plays, we didn’t control territory like we’re capable. It starts with puck battles. You’ve got to win puck battles.”
And that leads to one of the Boston tweaks on Thursday night which kept the Penguins off guard.