PITTSBURGH – It had been a long time since the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game without seeing the red light go on behind their opponent's net.
The 16-month anniversary of that game came Saturday night, and the Penguins celebrated it by seeing their 96-game run of shutout-free hockey come to a crashing halt.
The timing couldn't have been much worse.
However, Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss at the hands of goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins – now the only NHL team not to be shut out this season – in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final did not leave many of the Penguins players hanging their heads.
On the contrary, the Penguins feel the number of scoring chances they generated – particularly in the first half of the game – gives them something to build on for Game 2 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We need to do a lot of the same things," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who had a frustrating game. "If anything, just limit a couple of mistakes and make sure that our focus is in the right place. But I thought we did a lot of good things and we need to continue to build off that."
The last time the Penguins were shut out in a game was Feb 1, 2012, a 1-0 road loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs in which Crosby was not in the lineup. Nor was he on the ice for their last playoff shutout, a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 27, 2011. In fact, the last time a Penguins team with Crosby dressed failed to score was a 1-0 overtime road loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 23, 2010.
The Penguins did everything but score on Rask in the first period, dictating the pace of play early on and bombarding the Bruins with quality scoring chance after quality scoring chance.
Yet it was the Bruins who went into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead.
"The first half was a lot of great chances, really in the first two periods," Penguins forward Jarome Iginla said. "I don't know if we hit three posts or so, our power play had great looks. Rask played well, the goalies played well on both sides, but we got chances that we feel on another night go in, especially after two periods."
The obvious side effect of the Penguins spending large amounts of time in the Bruins' end is that the puck stayed far from Tomas Vokoun and the Penguins' net for large periods of time. Yet when the Bruins got opportunities they cashed them in. The Penguins didn't, as Rask stopped all 29 of their shots.
"I don't know how many [scoring chances] we gave them, but I would say less than 10," Crosby said. "Maybe 10. I don't know. But I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting them. We definitely made mistakes, but not something we're too concerned about not being able to change. Those are things we can definitely adjust."
Pittsburgh came out of the gate so hard, riding pent-up emotion built up during eight days of inactivity and fueled by a raucous home crowd at Consol Energy Center, that it would be impossible to sustain it over 60 minutes. However, when the Penguins crashed from that high, they crashed hard. The Bruins were able to control the third period and pull away with two goals to steal home ice advantage in the series.
"We had opportunities, but it's a tougher, tighter game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They played well. It's going to be that way. We have to certainly look at more ways to generate those opportunities, because I think as the game went on we got away from that and didn't have those."
But overall, a confident Penguins team wasn't looking at the streak-busting shutout in Game 1 as anything more than an anomaly, a mixture of bad puck luck, lack of finish and poor execution that will surely correct itself in Game 2.
"The Bruins are out to a 1-0 lead and it's a best-of-seven," Iginla said. "No one's dejected in here. We can't wait to get back and play the next and tie it up."