Drive the net. Drive the net. Drive the net.
"You just have to battle more, throw pucks to the net - you have to sacrifice more," Reilly Smith said prior to the matchup. "That's definitely the biggest factor we're focusing on."
It could be solace for the Bruins that they played what they preached, and picked up a point. But they unfortunately came out on the losing end, falling 3-2 to the Pens with Evgeni Malkin providing the dagger 32 seconds into overtime.
"It was a hard fought game, especially in front of the net," Tuukka Rask said postgame. He stopped 30 of 33 shots between the pipes. "We just fell short in the overtime, but a pretty good hockey game."
"It reminded me a little of playoff hockey there at times because it was hard fought around the creases," Rask added. "And it’s a bounce here, it’s a mistake here and there that ends up deciding the game and we fell short, so it’s disappointing but at least we got the point. I guess we’ve got to take the positive out of it."
The Bruins had two close calls with goals that were reviewed.
At 10:00 into the first period, Patrice Bergeron batted the puck in behind Marc-Andre Fleury, and the referee near the goal pointed towards the net. But the referees held a group huddle that determined the center's stick was above the height of the crossbar. According to the NHL's Situation Room, video review confirmed the discussion.
It would have tied the game at 1-1. The Bruins had fallen down 1-0 just 3:33 into the first period, when Sidney Crosby found the twine after a battle in and around the net. Rask made three saves from different angles before Crosby spun around and backhanded one home from right above the blue paint.
"When you've got to score two goals every night to get one, it’s tough to win hockey games," Head Coach Claude Julien said postgame. "We got some tough calls against us and our guys played hard right till the end. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that second point that I thought we deserved."
The Bruins got their tie game, though, when Milan Lucic camped in front of the net and scored off a nifty passing play from Loui Eriksson and Carl Soderberg 1:43 into the second.
"We were attacking with a lot more speed off the rush and we were strong on the pucks and driving to the front of the net and trying to create chances that way," said Lucic, who has played with Soderberg and Eriksson for the past two games with David Krejci still sidelined by an undisclosed injury. "For myself, just on that goal, just driving the net, stopping in front, and a great play by Carl and Loui to get me the puck there."
"Just drive the net," Julien said of the goal. "I think we did a better job than ever at driving the net. We’ve been struggling a little bit with that."
"When you look at Lucic’s first goal, not only did they drive the net, but they stopped in front, so he got a loose puck there and an empty net."
Just 28 seconds after Lucic's fourth goal of the season, Joe Morrow fired in his first NHL goal from the left point. His shot bypassed Gregory Campbell and Pittsburgh's Rob Scuderi in front of the net. Dougie Hamilton and Simon Gagne earned the assists. Gagne generated a chance by crashing the net, just before rotating the puck up to Hamilton.
"It was a good feeling, good thing to get that out of the way," said Morrow, who was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round. "First point too so hopefully I can kind of do something offensively out there for once and contribute that way, too."
The rookie defenseman was more focused on the "pretty disheartening" loss, though.
Malkin tied the game at 2-2 at 9:42 into the second, putting home a shot from the left circle on the power play. It was his first time ever beating Rask.
The Bruins appeared to have taken a 3-2 lead at 10:53, after Eriksson fed the puck towards the goal with the two big bodies of Lucic and Soderberg crashing.
The puck look to have hit Lucic, bounced off Fleury, hit Soderberg and go cross the goal line before the net came off its moorings. According to the NHL's Situation Room, video review confirmed the referee's call on the ice that Soderberg directed the puck into the net with his glove.
Soderberg didn't add fuel to that fire postgame, but there was clear frustration from his bench boss and other Bruins.
"I think that’s a little frustrating, especially the number of goals that we’ve had turned back on us this year," said Julien. "With what we’re going through, we’re working hard to score goals and yet, you get those taken away. We had a couple of tough calls on us tonigt. It gets frustrating with the guys working so hard, feeling like you play well enough to win and you come out of here losing in overtime when you thought you scored enough goals to win."
"That’s where you’re going to score," said Soderberg. "All the goals this season, me, Loui, and I think even Looch, is just around the net. That’s where you’re going to score."
"That’s how we want to play, throw pucks to the net and drive to the net. That’s how we score."
That temporary trio put pressure on the Penguins all night. Late in the second, Lucic battled with Simon Despres in front of the net, and that led to brief jabs and words exchanged before they were sent to their respective penalty boxes for roughing.
The Bruins had a 4-on-3 opportunity when Paul Martin was whistled for interference, but they couldn't convert.
In the third period, Boston's best chances came during a shift when Bergeron and Brad Marchand played with David Pastrnak, who was making his NHL debut.
Pastrnak fed a perfect no-look pass to Marchand in front, but he had the puck pokechecked away before he could get a shot off.
"I think we played hard. We battled hard and tried to go to the net, but it wasn’t enough," said a soft-spoken Pastrnak postgame. "I tried to my best for the team and to enjoy the time and enjoy the game."
"It's my dream, which came true and I just have to keep working hard and I want more games like this."
"I thought he had good legs," said Julien. "You can see he’s a pretty dynamic player. He had that one shift with Bergy’s line; March and him had a real good shift there in the o-zone. I liked his game. I know he didn’t get a ton of ice time (7:53), but when he was out there, I liked what he did."
"He’s very skilled and he didn’t play a ton, but when he was out there he was making things happen," said Marchand, who returned to the lineup after missing three straight games with an undisclosed situation. "You can see the talent that he has, and the speed."
"I’m feeling close," Marchand said, of getting back to 100 percent. "I felt a lot better than I did earlier, so it’s great to get back and be part of the team again."
Even Marchand put himself to work, going to the net hard. Smith did the same, putting a team-high four shots on goal. In the first period, Smith drove right towards the top of the crease, and had the right idea, but was nudged into Fleury and received a goalie interference penalty.
"When you’re having a tough time scoring goals, you’ve got to get back to playing dirty and get some ugly ones. That’s all we can really do," said Marchand. "Loui and Looch had a couple nice plays there. Carl had one called back and same with Bergy. Right ideas, but hopefully they’ll start counting."
"That’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes they go for you, and sometimes they go against you," Marchand added. "It means that we’re doing the right things. Guys are going to the net hard and that’s what we want to keep doing. Eventually, those goals are going to come."
The Bruins now have a three-day layoff before hosting the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night at TD Garden.
"I think our compete level in the last couple games has been there and it’s where we want it to be," said Lucic. "We've just got to be more hungry and committed in the o-zone and try to score goals."
"We can’t let an overtime loss bring us down; we've got to keep our compete level up and keep on pushing."
"I think my priority is to see us compete every game and give ourselves a chance to win," said Julien. "And that’s what we did tonight."