PITTSBURGH, Penn – The Boston Bruins came to Steel Town and left the arena Saturday night with a well-deserved 3-0 blanking of the Penguins. The win gives the B’s a 1-0 series lead and sudden home ice advantage.
How they did it was no mystery. Strong goaltending from Tuukka Rask and a relentless defense that bruised, bloodied and frustrated the Penguins talent on the forward lines.
“It was a big game; we wanted to get off to a good start and get the first win,” David Krejci said on CBC after the game. “So we got that, and now we just have to get ready for the second game, and try to steal that one as well.”
Krejci gave the Bruins the early lead off a blast that trickled in after Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun had seemingly made the stop. But the puck skittered under his pads into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile in the Bruins net, Rask was tested early and often but managed to stay level in the crease and made stunning saves on all of the Pens’ prominent offensive-minded forwards.
“They had a lot of chances,” Rask said after his first career playoff shutout. “We were just able to keep them off the scoreboard.”
Rask was expected to be a bit rusty after dismissing the New York Rangers in an easy series and then sitting for seven days. But that was hardly the case Saturday night.
“We’ve been spoiled for years now. We have great goaltenders,” Andrew Ference said on NBS Sports after the game. “We take it for granted sometimes, but they’ve been awesome for us. But they’re a big part of the playoffs and a big part of trying to do anything at this time of the year. We have a good one in our room and we’ll ride him and we’ll thank him when we see all the highlights and realize just how good he was.”
Bruins head coach Claude Julien was equally effusive about Rask.
“Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, (Rask) wasn’t good, he was outstanding,” Julien said in his post game press conference.
About Krejci Julien equated his forward to any of the other forwards on the Pens bench.
“He’s a good player. Why should he be different than (Sidney) Crosby or (Evgeni) Malkin, who are good players. That line was really good for us tonight. They made some great plays and scored some big goals for us,” Julien said.
Hidden in the Bruins scoresheet was Nathan Horton who figured in all three Boston goals including scoring the clincher in the third to make it 3-0.
If the Boston game plan was to frustrate the Pens it worked, to a tee. By the end of the second period, the Pens were clearly off their game. Evgeni Malkin decided to toss his mitts in favor of a fight with Patrice Bergeron at center ice as the horn sounded. Each was awarded majors for fighting.
The powder keg that his game developed as was lighted by the inexcusable boarding penalty by Matt Cooke on Adam McQuaid. Cooke got a 5-minute major for boarding a game misconduct.
Tempers then flared the rest of the match with Sidney Crosby almost comically getting into a shoving match with Boston’s Zdeno Charra at the center ice stripe after the second. Had a fight broken out Charra might well have gotten tired from punching down at Crosby. There is a time and place for sticking up for teammates and this was clearly neither the time nor the place.
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma was not happy about the fracas at center ice and his two stars involved or itching for a fight.
“I don’t think the situation at the end of the second period was in our favor. We had a power-play. We had a power-play coming out of the third period. We got two of our power-play guys off the ice with those altercations,” Bylsma said. “That’s not something we certainly want to be into. Don’t want to make the game that way. We want to play five-on-five. “
“Starting really at that point in time, with those guys going off the ice, it did I think get us off our game. I think we could have come out and scored a power-play goal, it would have been different. We weren’t able to get back at our game after that power-play.”
Despite the win Julien noted several areas where he wants to see improvement.
“There’s penalties, power plays. A lot of faceoffs in our own end. We had to make sure we had the right people out there. There’s a lot of reasons why,” Julien said. “Fortunately, I was able to use them more as the game went on. (I’m) Not disappointed with anything. I think overall our guys reacted well. I thought as a coach I was able to, you know, get the stuff I wanted. But like I said, I think it’s the same thing with him. He probably got most of the matchups he wanted.”