Boston entered Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh with the NHL’s top-ranked offense, but it would prove to be no match for the strong defense of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
and the Penguins. Pittsburgh effectively smothered the Bruins’ explosiveness up top to come away with a 2-1 victory at TD Garden.
The Penguins' win marked the first time the Bruins have lost consecutive home contests since Oct. 22 (4-2 to San Jose) and Oct. 27 (2-1 to Montreal).
“They’re one of the best teams in the league. It was a great challenge for us tonight,” Fleury said. “The guys responded really well and played a solid game.”
Fleury made 28 saves to earn his ninth-straight win between the pipes. It’s the second-longest stretch of his career behind the 11-game win streak he posted from Nov. 17-Dec. 11 of last season.
“Once again, ‘Flower’ was huge,” forward Pascal Dupuis
In addition to solid work on a four-minute Bruins power play (more on that later), Fleury was at his best late in the game – and the Penguins needed him to be as the Bruins are the NHL’s best third-period team with a plus-37 goal differential in the final frame.
After defenseman Joe Corvo pulled the Bruins within one with just 13:15 left in the third, Fleury made a pair of key saves in the second half of the third period on Gregory Campbell and Tyler Seguin to preserve the lead and help his team
come away with two big points.
But Fleury deflected much-deserved credit to the cast of players in front of him.
“A lot of them blocked shots and took rebounds away,” he said. “So that’s always a big help for me.”
“They got a goal there to get within one and every guy, every player had to go out there and play good team defense,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We got a lot of big efforts and a huge win for us.”
Overall, the Penguins produced a solid team effort on both ends of the ice.
“Just a big team win here,” Dupuis said.
The Penguins’ top line struck first in the opening period on a power play to get Pittsburgh on the board. James Neal
’s shot was dug out by Chris Kunitz
for Evgeni Malkin
to slam home for his 28th goal and NHL-leading 60th point.
But it would be the trio of Matt Cooke
, Dustin Jeffrey
and Dupuis – a line that Bylsma singled out as being a more “steady, defensive line” before the game – that would score next.
On the play, Jeffrey and Dupuis got a little tangled up while entering the zone but still managed to get a puck to the cage. Jeffrey collected that rebound and swept it to the front, where it hit Cooke’s chest before falling to the ice for him to knock into the net past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas.
“’Cookie’ was right there in front of the net, it just hit him right in the chest and came down. He just tapped it in,” Dupuis said. “It’s the game winner right there, so it’s a big goal.”
With the Penguins holding onto a precarious 1-0 lead around the midway point of the second period, Dupuis was hustling on the backcheck to cover his mark Seguin when he clipped the Bruins forward with a high stick.
Unfortunately, Dupuis’ blade drew blood on the play – which awarded the Bruins a four-minute power play with the Penguins holding a slippery 1-0 lead.
But the Penguins, led by Fleury, came up with a monumental effort on the penalty kill to keep the Bruins off the scoreboard.
“At the time, it’s still a real tight game,” Bylsma said. “If they can score on that, it’s possibly a big turning point them. For us to be able to kill that and keep it 1-0, was real big for our team. I think we played better after that point.”
Defenseman Zbynek Michalek
was on the ice for three of those four minutes, with fellow blueliners Paul Martin
and Brooks Orpik
as well as forwards Matt Cooke
, Craig Adams
, Richard Park
and Joe Vitale
putting in some tough shorthanded minutes.
And effectively thwarting what had been the NHL’s fourth-ranked power play entering the game for such a long period of time gave the Penguins a boost.
“That was a big, big kill for us,” Vitale said. “I think it got us some really good momentum. It was great by the killers and great by Flower. We had a game plan heading in on what we wanted to do on the penalty kill. It was good that we executed.”
The Bruins have built a reputation around the league as one of the NHL’s grittiest, toughest teams to play against.
But on Saturday, the Penguins decided to beat the Bruins at their own game by coming out with an edge and sustaining that physicality for the entire game.
That was punctuated by Orpik in the second period, when he absolutely leveled Daniel Paille at center ice with a hard, clean hit and sent him flying up into the air.
The Penguins finished the afternoon with 28 hits to the Bruins’ 17.
“They’re one of the toughest teams in the league,” Vitale said. “They’ve got a lot of grit, a lot of hard-working guys. I thought that Orpik hit in the second period really got us going.”
Forward Cal O’Reilly made his Penguins debut in Saturday’s game, centering a line with Steve Sullivan
and Tyler Kennedy
O’Reilly logged 13:41 minutes of ice time, including 1:36 minutes on the second power-play unit. He went 4-3 in the faceoff dot and recorded one hit and one blocked shot.
Bylsma said following the game that he liked what he saw from the 25-year-old forward, acquired off re-entry waivers from Phoenix on Monday.
“I saw a number of skilled plays and passing plays,” Bylsma said. “He had a couple chances to score goals tonight in that (net-front) area. Didn’t quite materialize for him, but he was in those spots and you can see what he brings in the skill area and in that area. He’s not a real big guy but there’s a battle level and compete level that was evident on both ends of the rink.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo