The Penguins secured a big road win and increased their chances of holding home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 5-3 win in Boston over the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins at TD Garden Tuesday night.
It was a wide-open and physical affair. Both teams traded rushes, turnovers, scoring chances and big hits.
The Penguins victory coupled with the Flyers’ 5-3 loss to the NY Rangers gives Pittsburgh a three-point edge on Philadelphia for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with two games left for both squads. The Rangers’ win locks up the top seed in the East for them, meaning the Pens will finish as either the fourth or fifth seed. Sidney Crosby
(2), James Neal
, Paul Martin
and Arron Asham
scored for the Penguins. Milan Lucic, Rich Peverley and Beniot Pouliot tallied for Boston.
The difference in this game came down to one sequence late in the second period featuring the Pens power play against the Bruins penalty kill.
The game was tied at 2-2 when the Pens ended up with a 5-on-3 advantage with 151 secons left in the period after Daniel Paille was called for boarding and Rich Peverley was whistled for high sticking 13 seconds later.
Working the two-man advantage, James Neal
gave Pittsburgh the lead when he found Sidney Crosby
’s centering pass – originally intended for Chris Kunitz
– and buried it for his 40th goal of the season and NHL-leading 18th power-play goal.
“We had a shot-first mentality tonight,” Neal said. “We definitely did the job.”
The Pens then struck again on the ensuing conventional 5-on-4 power play. Defenseman Kris Letang
carried the puck down the near side and sent a backhand pass through a few sticks onto the tape of Crosby, who was able to bat the bouncing puck into a wide-open net to give Pittsburgh 4-2 lead with 1:01 to play in the second period.
“A lot of times that’s the difference in hockey games when you’re able to score on the power play with the way that we do such a great job killing penalties,” Crosby said. “That’s a big boost if we can score on the power play.”
THE BIG 40James Neal
reached another milestone in a season full of them. He scored his 40th goal of the year, becoming only the fourth player in the NHL to achieve the mark this season.
“It feels good,” Neal said. “It’s been great being able to play with (Evgeni Malkin
) and (Chris Kunitz
). It’s been a lot of fun. We’re focusing on ourselves here. We did a good job playing against a tough Bruins team and fighting for that home-ice advantage.”
“He’s been a goal scorer and winger on a line for our top centerman,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Getting to 40 was big for James. I’m real happy to see him get that one.”
JOHNNY SAVES THE DAY
The turning point in the game occurred just one minute into the second period. The Bruins tied the game just 14 seconds in the middle frame, but 50 seconds later they had a chance to gain the lead and really push the momentum on their side.
Brad Marchand intercepted a pass inside the Pens blue line and carried in on goal with Tyler Seguin for a 2-on-0. Marchand waited until the last minute and then slid a cross-crease pass to Seguin.
Johnson came sliding over on his pads and got his glove on Seguin’s shot to deny the Bruins the lead.
“I’d say I meant to save it but that’d be a lie,” Johnson joked. “It was all desperation. I just got over there as quick as I could. If he passed it back, I’m dead in the water. He shot it and I got a piece of it.”
Johnson made 26 saves in a solid overall effort.
“This game felt better than the previous one in Buffalo,” Johnson said. “There is still room for refinement in my game. Talking to the D-men, our communication was great tonight. We had to kill some penalties and we did.”
recorded two goals and an assist for a three-point night. Crosby now has 34 points (7G-27A) in just 20 games this season – an impressive 1.7 points per game average. Pascal Dupuis
recorded an assist to extend his NHL season-best scoring streak to 15 games. He has 20 points (9G-11A) during that stretch. Kris Letang
tied career highs for assists/points with three assists against the Bruins.
The Pens did not escape the game unscathed.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen
was shaken up toward the end of the second period after Paille ran him over in the corner of the Pens zone. Niskanen was slow getting up and went straight to the locker room. He did not return to the game.
Forward Joe Vitale
went down late in the third period when a Zdeno Chara wrist shot struck him in the face under his visor. Vitale fell immediately to the ice in obvious pain.
“There are no updates,” Bylsma said. “Everyone will be evaluated back in Pittsburgh.”
Author: Sam Kasan