Life without Sidney Crosby has gotten a little easier for the Pittsburgh Penguins now that Jordan Staal is back making an impact again.
Staal scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 44 saves to lead the Penguins to a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon at the TD Garden.
This time, Pittsburgh didn't let Boston come back late. Five days earlier, the Bruins scored four goals in the final 3:23 of the third period for a 4-2 win, and they also had a five-goal third in a 7-4 victory over the Penguins on Nov. 10.
"I thought our third-period effort was pretty solid and we kept it from the outside when they were shooting," said Staal, who also set up the game's first goal.
Staal missed the first 39 games of the season as he recovered first from offseason foot surgery and then a broken hand. He returned for the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and went scoreless over his first five games before breaking out Wednesday with the game-winning goal and 2 assists in a win over Montreal.
On the winning tally, Matt Cooke sent a backhand pass out from behind the net and Staal converted a backhander past Tuukka Rask.
"I think that it's familiar," Cooke said of being reunited on a line with Staal and Tyler Kennedy, who also assisted on the play. "We've been there pretty much the last two previous years. We feel comfortable, we communicate well and we know where each other are on the ice, and any time it's that way it makes the game easier."
With the victory, Pittsburgh closed to within one point of Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead. Crosby sat out his fifth straight game with a concussion.
Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also scored for the Penguins, who took a 2-0 lead early in the second period before the Bruins rallied.
Dennis Seidenberg and Michael Ryder scored 13 seconds apart midway through the second for Boston, which started the day leading Montreal by four points in the Northeast Division. Rask made 33 saves.
Fleury made a pair of big saves on Seidenberg in the final minute with Rask on the bench for a sixth attacker, including a stop off a backhander with 40.6 seconds remaining.
"I thought we had a lot of pressure in the third period," forward Shawn Thornton said. "We definitely showed some character coming back in the second and third period. I thought we could have easily, there was a lot of chances. It didn't work our way tonight, though, but it wasn't for lack of effort so you've got to like that."
Kunitz scored his 15th of the season into a wide-open net at 10:57 of the first period. Cooke found Staal with a cross-ice pass to set up the play and after drawing Rask to the left post he sent the puck back into the middle where Kunitz had an easy tip-in.
Dupuis doubled Pittsburgh's lead 41 seconds into the middle period when Zbynek Michalek's shot from the point deflected off a Boston stick, caromed off the end boards and came back in front where Dupuis was able to capitalize past a surprised Rask.
Seidenberg was instrumental in the Bruins tying the score in short order, as his blast beat Fleury at 11:28 to get them on the scoreboard. Off the ensuing faceoff and Penguins' rush, Seidenberg helped cause a turnover and Marc Savard turned the puck back the other way on the stick of Ryder. He used Michalek as a screen and ripped in his 13th of the season.
"They're the kind of team that comes back from behind and did it to us a couple times already in our building," Dupuis said. "Flower played great in the third, and the end of the second there he made some key saves."
Ryder got pucks past Fleury a couple times in the third, but on one occasion it glanced off the outside of the post and another time the Pittsburgh defense was able to clear it away from the goal line.
"I kind of want the next shot, just to make a save and get going again," said Fleury, who won his 20th game of the season.
Savard, who suffered a severe concussion last season when he was hit from the blind side by Cooke, had to be attended to by trainers after his head hit the boards on a check by defenseman Deryk Engelland in the third period. Savard skated back to the bench under his own power and continued to take his regular shifts.
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.