For the first 53:42 minutes of Tuesday’s game against Boston at CONSOL Energy Center, it seemed like the Bruins would leave Pittsburgh with a 2-0 shutout victory. The pucks just didn’t seem to be bouncing Pittsburgh’s way no matter how much they buzzed the net.
But that changed once Chris Kunitz scored with 6:18 left in the third period to make it 2-1. Then a pair of clutch goals by Brandon Sutter – including the game-winner with 2:03 left in regulation – completed the comeback to give the Penguins a monumental 3-2 victory over the Bruins and extend their winning streak to six games.
“We did a great job of coming back,” Kunitz said. “We knew it would take a bunch of shots to get past these guys and wear their team down. It took 55 minutes to get that first one. ... I think it's a great learning tool for us to be able to play 55 minutes without getting a goal and then just keep coming and be able to get three quick ones and turn the tide in the game.”
Producing a rally like this is impressive in itself; to do it against a team like Boston is nothing short of miraculous. The Bruins are a structurally sound team that’s completely committed to their system. Throughout the game they had perfect positioning, made perfect passes and supported each other all 200 feet of the ice.
But the Penguins stuck with it and continued to get to their game as time wore down against the Bruins, whose biggest mistake was trying to protect a two-goal lead against the league’s best offense. Pittsburgh isn’t a team to sit back on, and they proved why tonight.
The Penguins held Boston to just 16 total shots through 60 minutes and one measly shot for the majority of the third period. But despite their miniscule shot total, the Bruins did control a lot of the game – especially early.
They scored a power-play goal within the opening five minutes when Zdeno Chara’s slapshot from the point eluded a screened Marc-Andre Fleury. Tyler Seguin scored less than 10 minutes later to make it 2-0 and from there on, the Bruins clogged the neutral zone with four players and did a solid job of keeping possession despite not getting many pucks to the net. Goalie Anton Khudobin, making his sixth start this season, played confident in the cage. He came out of his net to challenge shots and didn’t give the Penguins anywhere to shoot.
"They give you the shots from the outside," Kunitz said. "We were looking for passes off the pads, try to get stuff from the slot. They did a great job of clearing. We knew we needed to put a lot of pucks toward them. I think they're a team that might get outshot lots of games, but they have a great structure and it took us a while to break it."
But the Penguins didn't give up and kept working to gain the zone and grind the Bruins down with their system. They steadily improved and increased the pressure as the game went on, coming up with strong shifts where they created decent scoring chances. But when the Penguins couldn’t convert a 5-on-3 opportunity that lasted for 1:05 minutes early in the third period (they came inches from scoring; just couldn’t get their shots to cross the goal line), despite everything they had done well up to that point it seemed like Boston was destined to come away with two points.
But not so fast.
The Penguins broke through and finally solved Khudobin late in the game when defenseman Kris Letang sent a cross-ice pass over to Kunitz, who one-timed a bullet for his 18th goal of the season. From there, the entire game changed and momentum shifted firmly to the Penguins.
“It seemed like every time we had a good opportunity they were up to the task even though we were pushing and pushing,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “It felt like we were playing for the first goal. We broke through that with enough time to keep pushing. We got that great goal from Kunitz and our team felt like, at that point, we were going to get another goal.”
Brandon Sutter’s last two-goal effort? March 2 in a 7-6 win over Montreal, including the overtime winner to start the Penguins’ six-game win streak.
It’s safe to say he's been clutch for the Penguins.
On Tuesday against the Bruins, Sutter scored both goals virtually the exact same way. The first one, he, Beau Bennett and James Neal entered the zone together. Bennett passed to Neal, who passed to Sutter who sent a wrister far side past goalie Anton Khudobin to tie the score 1-1 with 5:27 left in regulation.
He got his second as the result of a gorgeous defensive play. Sutter intercepted a clearing pass just inside the blue line, carried it in with Sidney Crosby driving to the net on the other side of the slot and wristed it far side again.Full story here.
Letang’s assist on Kunitz’s goal extends his assist streak to six games – a new career high (12 total). He continues to lead all defensemen in points (27) and assists (24). Letang skated a game-high 27:49 minutes (shocking, I know) and finished with a game-high eight shots (that's with four other attempts blocked).
Kunitz is now second in the league in goals, trailing only Steven Stamkos (20). The goal also extends Kunitz’s home point streak to five games (6G-3A-9PTS). Kunitz now has points in nine of his last 10 games, during which he has totaled 12 goals, six assists and 18 points.
Neal extended his point streak to six games with an assist on Sutter’s game-tying goal. Neal has nine points (4G-5A) during the streak.
Pascal Dupuis played with a lot of heart and hustle on Tuesday. He used his speed to get in on the forecheck and be physical, finishing with a team-high six hits. He also threw five shots on net.
The Penguins wore purple jerseys with pink lettering in the warmup on Tuesday to help promote cancer awareness. The jerseys will be donated to the UPMC Cancer Center.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo