PITTSBURGH -- In order to have a puncher's chance of knocking out the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, the Boston Bruins know they are going to have to weather some pretty intense barrages.
They not only survived the first prolonged flurry from Pittsburgh's vaunted offense in the opening minutes of Game 1, they pulled themselves off the mat and scored a telling blow with a perfectly timed counter punch, setting the stage for 3-0 victory in Game 1 at Consol Energy Center.
"I think they had pretty good start," said David Krejci, who landed the big punch for Boston with his game-opening goal at 8:23 of the first period. "They had some good chances. They played in [our] zone a lot. We were getting [into] some troubles. We couldn't get a puck deep, couldn't get a forecheck going.
"After we scored the first goal, it kind of turned around and we started playing in their zone a little more. In the second, third period, we played the way we play."
Krejci's goal came completely against the run of play.
After Boston took two of the first three shots, Pittsburgh ran off six straight shots and missed the net with at least three more. They were buzzing the zone repeatedly, pinning the Bruins in their own end and grinding on the top Boston defenders shift after shift.
Essentially, they were executing the same game plan that had run right over their first two opponents when it reached top gear. But, the Bruins refused to buckle.
Tuukka Rask made a few key saves, the goal posts intervened once or twice and the Penguins left some opportunities on the table by missing shots, often over the crossbar as they tried to pick the upper corners against the Boston goalie.
"I thought we had a handful of real good opportunities in the first period, a couple we misfired on, a couple we hit posts on," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "[Rask] made a couple really good saves. I think we didn't capitalize on the power-play chances that we had.
"Those were big opportunities, especially the one at the end of the second going into the third. We had opportunities. But it's a tougher, tighter game. They played well. It's going to be that way. You know, we have to certainly look at more ways to generate those opportunities, 'cause I think as the game went on, we got away from that and didn't have those."
The Penguins got away from their game plan because Krejci's first goal stung them. The second Krejci goal -- at 4:04 of the third period -- absolutely buckled the home team, leaving them staggering and open for further counter-attacks.
"We probably weren't too happy with the quality [of opportunities] we gave up," Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "They were pretty patient and just waited for opportunities. They got a couple of odd-man rushes that they capitalized on and once they got the lead they played real well after that."
Suddenly, Pittsburgh's plan of getting in on the forecheck and cycling the puck was abandoned. Instead, the Penguins tried to charge head-long into the Maginot Line Boston was deploying at its own blue line. The results, as such, were predictable as Pittsburgh failed to gain entry into the zone on a consistent basis and turned over a ton of pucks in the neutral zone.
"I think in probably the latter, I'd say, 35 minutes of the game, we got away a little bit from our execution," Bylsma said. "Brought pucks back, tried to make plays through the neutral zone. They had all five guys back. We weren't able to get through that. Got away from how we execute.
"Not so much our execution not working, we just got away from a lot of that trying to generate a scoring chance instead of executing the way we need to to get behind their defense and get into the offensive zone. They did a good job of that."
The Bruins will do more of it in Game 2 Monday night. It is the way they have played all postseason and it is the way they know they will have to play to beat a team that was averaging more than four goals a game this postseason.
"We got caught into a run-and-gun type of game," Boston coach Claude Julien said of the game's first period. "I think we all know we're not a team that does well in those run-and-gun games. In the third period, we settled down, played more of our game. I think that's why we spent more time in our own end and managed the puck better."
And, therein rests the blueprint to winning this battle between hockey heavyweights for the Bruins.
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