The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a resurgent and different team since they lost Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin in the Stadium Series game a few weeks ago. The Penguins magically discovered when five players participate in the defensive effort, good things happen. The maintained their seriousness regarding team defense and transitioned off their hard work for a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins, Sunday night.
They generated piles of offense from good defensive work. Their third line is working like it hasn’t in two years.
The Penguins transition game also had perhaps its best game of the season. By creating turnovers and loose pucks, then racing ahead, they had Boston chasing them.
If this keeps up, it could become a habit…for a few more months. Yes, I’m hinting at THAT.
The Boston Bruins have been the hottest team in the NHL–they had points in 19 straight games. Despite just completing an emotional home-and-home with division rival Columbus Blue Jackets, the Penguins started strong against Boston and kept up their puck pressure.
The Penguins owned the first period scoring chances, 12-2 and led 2-0. They did it with playoff-type hockey. There wasn’t a great system wrinkle or trick. The Penguins were urgent as they blitzed Boston in the first 20 minutes. Just as Columbus did to the Penguins Saturday night, the Penguins beat Boston to loose pucks, won puck battles and didn’t provide much space.
“I thought tonight against a real good team that has won a lot of games and beat a lot of good teams lately, I thought we did a real good job (paying attention to details),” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I thought we had good offensive zone time. We had a number of transition opportunities…”
The Penguins first goal was a prime example. After the Penguins third line took a few shots at Jaroslav Halak, Boston attempted to transition but Dominik Simon wasn’t done. Simon chased David Krejci, stole the puck and set in motion the Penguins marker as Patric Hornqvist put the puck in the crease for Nick Bjugstad to win.
Bjugstad won the battle with Krejci and the Penguins scored.
Early in the third period, more hard backchecking by the third line sprung Simon and Bjugstad on a 2-on-1. The Penguins followed that shift by putting Teddy Blueger on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel and got more of the same. The Penguins began the period with offensive chances by owning the puck and doggedly pursuing it.