The Boston Bruins were defeated by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, Thursday night in front of a big crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden. Erik Christensen scored two goals, including the game-winner, to pace the Penguins, while Boston's Brandon Bochenski and Phil Kessel each scored in a losing effort.
"It's obviously a tough position right now," said a disappointed Zdeno Chara
, who played over 25-minutes during the game. "We have to keep playing hard until the end, keep playing for pride, for the letter on our jerseys and…each other."
Bruins forward Bochenski put the home squad on the board first with a goal at just the 45-second mark.
"I think our whole team, especially our line, had a lot of chances tonight," said Bochenski. "We got two early and we had a lot of chances to score later.
"I was just in front of the net…I got hit right in the backside with the puck, it landed right there, and I threw it into the yawning cage."
Pittsburgh's Erik Christensen scored a power play goal at 3:20 and the Pens Colby Armstrong put his team up 2-1 at 9:18 with his 12th goal of the season.
Boston's Phil Kessel scored the 'coolest' goal of his young career at 10:56 when he batted his own waist-high rebound out of the air and past the Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
"I thought it was Phil's best game," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. "We are in the process of evaluating…and seeing how the guys play under these circumstances.
"He really had a strong game."
But Christensen took a feed from NHL points leader Sidney Crosby at 11:27 and put the visitors up 3-2 at 11:27 going into the first break.
The second period was played at a much slower pace than the first, but the technique used by both teams was crisper than what had been displayed previously and with only two penalties called, one minor each to both squads, the score remained static, 3-2.
Both goalies settled comfortably into their creases even as the sound of goal posts reverberated at both ends of the ice. Thanks to those posts, neither goaltender was beaten in the middle stanza and Thomas had 13 saves through 40-minutes while Fleury had saved 18 for Pittsburgh.
Most of the third period was a mirror image of the second with both goalies going save for save and trying to wrest away the momentum for their squads. But an expired high-sticking penalty gave Pittsburgh the power play that eventually led to a two-goal Pens lead.
With the Bruin penalty expiring, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin found himself in front of the Bruins net with the puck. That led to his 33rd marker of the season, and effectively iced the game for the wrong set of black and gold.
"Malkin and Sidney Crosby -- whoever is playing them in the playoffs has to find a way to shut those guys down," said Lewis. "And it is going to be a difficult task."
Before the game, NESN announced that Bruins goalie Tim Thomas
is the 38th 7th Player Award Winner (Sponsored by New England Dodge Dealers). Thomas, 32, and a native of Flint, Michigan, is just the 4th player in the history of the award to win the honor twice, the first being Randy Burridge (1986, 1989), followed by Hockey Hall of Famer Cam Neely (1987, 1994), and Wilbraham, Massachusetts native Bill Guerin (2001, 2002). "The Tank" is just the second to win it in consecutive years…"I can see (why) the fans love Timmy, the way he plays," said Lewis. "He battles and just never quits on anything. He is an exciting player to watch…that's what he brings to the game (and) he brings that hard work (and) work ethic that I think all players can learn from."