– The Pittsburgh Penguins led the NHL in goals per game (3.65) heading into Tuesday night’s showdown with the Bruins. Their powerful offense also had them towards the top on the power play – they rank third, converting on 25.7 of their chances with the man advantage (though they were 0-4 on Tuesday).
Even with the league’s most potent offense, and arguably the league’s greatest player, Sidney Crosby, always looming, the Bruins were shutting out the Pens through 54 minutes.
Anton Khudobin was standing strong under the bright lights of a premier matchup – the second night of a back-to-back, on the road – against a team that many believe could meet the B’s down the road in the playoffs.
But, the Bruins struggled to clamp down on a third period lead, allowing the Penguins to rally for three goals in the final six minutes and come away with a 3-2 win.
The third period breakdown had little to do with Khudobin, however. The B’s backup backstop stepped in for Tuukka Rask, once more, and remained calm and resolved throughout.
Khudobin, who made 31 stops, did not make B’s Head Coach Claude Julien regret giving Rask – who was scheduled to make the start, despite the back-to-back, but came down with the flu following the win in Ottawa Monday – a night to recover at the end of the bench.
“He kept us in the game, especially in the second period, he made some big saves,” said Julien after the loss. “He put us in a good position going into the third period, but the breakdowns in front of him eventually caught up to him. I thought he was good tonight.
“Unfortunately, Tuukka was battling the flu after the game last night, so that was his chance to get a back-to-back, but Dobby stepped in there today and did a really good job. Certainly, he gave us a chance to win.”
When the Penguins began to make a push towards the end of the second period, Khudobin made a number of key saves – 11 in the frame – to keep the Bruins up, 2-0. Then during the middle of the third, with the Bruins trying to kill off a 5-on-3, Khudobin stood tall, making a number of important stops to hold off the Penguins.
Pittsburgh was building momentum, though, and took advantage of a Bruins team that was tiring towards the end of the second night of a back-to-back. Chris Kunitz got the Penguins on the board with a wicked one-timer over the left shoulder of Khudobin at 13:42 of the third.
Brandon Sutter then tied it at two, 51 seconds later, before he put Pittsburgh on top for good with another tally with just over two minutes remaining.
“Of course. They're a good team,” said Khudobin, when asked whether he could feel Pittsburgh turning it on as the game progressed. “I wouldn't think that they would give up. They kept coming, they kept coming. They just scored three and we didn't score one [in the third].
Khudobin wouldn’t blame the loss on fatigue.
“We just had to play our game and I think that's it,” he said. “Everybody is stoppable, they are a good team to play against, maybe we could be a little tired in the third period because we played two in two, but we can't blame it on anything. A loss is a loss.”
Dennis Seidenberg said there was nothing else Khudobin could have done in the third, and that the B’s final period troubles were not the goalie's fault.
“He played great,” said Seidenberg. “We did give up a lot of shots , but most of them were from the outside and he had to step up a few times and make great saves.
“He did a great job, he couldn't have done anything else. He played well.”