Given the way the Bruins' season has gone, it wouldn't have been a shock to see a letdown last night.
After all, they were playing their second game in as many nights and were coming off a remarkable shutout of the Red Wings in Detroit, so a little dip in their play wouldn't have been unexpected.
And with the Bruins and Penguins, who also were coming off an emotional win over the Devils in New Jersey, tied at 1-1 with less than four minutes remaining in regulation, it appeared the teams were fatigued and headed toward overtime, and a tie.
Then rookie Patrice Bergeron intervened, riding to the rescue. He scored his 11th goal during a power play with 2:52 left in the third period, giving the Bruins the go-ahead goal on the way to a 3-1 victory at the FleetCenter. It extended Boston's unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1-0).
Bergeron, just 18 and converted from center to right wing, made a heads-up play to put his team on top to stay.
Goalie Andrew Raycroft relayed the puck up to defenseman Jeff Jillson, who dished it to Bergeron. Bergeron skated through the neutral zone, deked veteran defenseman Marc Bergevin at the blue line, and fired a shot from the left circle past goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin to the short side.
"Jeff Jillson gave me a pretty nice pass," said Bergeron. "When I came to the blue line, the [defenseman] tried to hit me but he was standing still, so I just tried to cut in the middle. After that I said, `Sometimes I pass too much so why not this time shoot?' and that's what I did. I have to work on that. I know sometimes I screw up the play because I pass too much, but sometimes it's quick and you think maybe you should pass, and after you realize you should shoot."
Bergevin said he could only tip his cap to the youngster.
"He made a great move and beat me," said Bergevin. "That's the bottom line. I take full responsibility."
Mike Knuble closed out the scoring with an empty-netter with 31.7 seconds left.
Unlike a night earlier, the Bruins got off to a strong start. They scored first and outshot the Penguins, 9-4, in the opening 20 minutes. Defenseman Sean O'Donnell, who made a nice setup on Knuble's goal Wednesday night against the Red Wings in Detroit, potted his first goal of the season at 8:23 to give Boston a 1-0 lead.
Joe Thornton dished the puck to Sergei Samsonov and he relayed it to O'Donnell, who was at the top of the right circle. O'Donnell teed up a slapper that beat Aubin for his first tally since March 8, 2003.
The Penguins pulled even at 6:29 of the second. Rookie defenseman Shaone Morrisonn got caught deep, allowing Brian Holzinger to chip the puck by him and start a two-on-one break.
With only defenseman Nick Boynton back, Holzinger skated up the right side, making a move that appeared to freeze Raycroft. He dished the puck to Martin Strbak in the left circle and he fired it past Raycroft for his fourth goal.
The Bruins were an inch or so away from another lead in the final seconds of the period when they were awarded a power play with seven ticks on the clock. With Strbak off for interference, Brian Rolston teed up a slapper that rattled off the post.
Boston dodged a bullet early in the third period when a Penguins goal was disallowed. Milan Kraft, positioned to Raycroft's left, shot the puck at the net with Tom Kostopoulos in front. The puck was deflected into the air and went off Kostopoulos's left arm at 3:04. After a video review, it was ruled no goal because Kostopoulos deliberately knocked it in.
A roughing penalty called against Konstantin Koltsov on O'Donnell at 15:22 led to Bergeron's goal. After Knuble sealed it, the Bruins could savor two wins in two days, particularly following up one successful performance with another. "We want to try to string some wins together so we can build our confidence," said coach Mike Sullivan. "After coming off an emotional win, it was important, especially to come back at home and establish a win. We'll take the 2 points and move on."