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Bruins march ahead

They stomp on lowly Penguins

Brad Stuart is swarmed by his teammates after he beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (right) for his second goal.
Brad Stuart is swarmed by his teammates after he beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (right) for his second goal. (AP Photo)

PITTSBURGH -- At 18:29 of the third period last night, when Tim Thomas lost his chance for a second career shutout after Pittsburgh forward Tomas Surovy made it a 3-1 game, the Bruins netminder lifted his oversized goalie stick and nearly smashed it on the ice. But at the last second, he stopped, choosing instead to fish the puck out of the net and fling it away in disgust.

''It's a little disappointing," said Thomas, who cited age and experience for not slamming his stick into the ice. ''[Shutouts] are hard to come by. But we won. That's the important thing."

Last night at Mellon Arena, it didn't matter that rookie defenseman Andrew Alberts, on one of his 11 shifts, coughed up the puck that led to Surovy's strike.

''He saved my butt on the penalty-kill five times," said Thomas, absolving the first-year defenseman.

It didn't matter that Travis Green was named yesterday in a newspaper report as a player who was involved in a gambling ring allegedly financed by Rick Tocchet. The forward, playing under heavy pressure, won an offensive-zone faceoff in the middle frame and scored seconds later to give the Bruins their first goal.

''It was a relief with what's been going on the last few days," Green said.

What mattered was that the Bruins claimed the victory, one that was expected of a streaking team against a listless, last-place Pittsburgh squad that was blistered yet again by coach Michel Therrien, who called it an unacceptable performance. Brad Stuart scored two goals, Brian Leetch returned to the lineup and recorded an assist, and the Bruins limited Pittsburgh to 17 shots en route to notching 2 important points in the playoff chase before the Olympic break. In the second period, when the Bruins scored twice, they held a 16-4 shot advantage, controlling the puck deep in the Pittsburgh zone and preventing quick-strike forwards Sidney Crosby and Mark Recchi from attacking Thomas's net.

''The best defense is playing in the other team's zone," Leetch said. ''We were able to do that for big stretches of the game. That forced them to make plays all the way down the ice. We did a good job of getting it behind their D and ended up spending good chunks of time in their end."

In the second period, Green won the faceoff from Crosby, pulling the puck back to the point for Hal Gill. Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (35 saves) got a piece of Gill's shot, but Green, who had slipped past Crosby, settled the rebound at the edge of the crease and tucked it into the net from seemingly behind the goal line at 7:05.

The Bruins doubled their lead with a power-play goal later in the period. With Pittsburgh defenseman Eric Cairns in the penalty box for tripping, Glen Murray, stickhandling at the point, dished to Leetch, who had missed three straight games because of a recurring groin injury. Meanwhile, Stuart had skated behind the net and was lurking uncovered at the left post.

Leetch misfired on his pass, hoping that once it flew off his stick it would bounce off the end boards, but the puck glanced off Stuart's right leg and past Fleury at 16:08, making it 2-0. The play was reviewed to see if Stuart had kicked the puck in.

''I knew I hadn't made a kicking motion," Stuart said. ''I was trying to move my leg and get my stick on it. But I was pretty confident they'd realize it wasn't a kicking motion."

In the third period, Stuart scored his second goal and 10th of the season just as the first penalty of a five-on-three power play had expired. With Surovy just out of the box, Stuart smoked a wrister through traffic and past Fleury at 6:15.

While Thomas (16 stops), whose busiest stretch came in a six-save first period, came 91 seconds short of earning the shutout, he echoed the sentiment stated around the upbeat Bruins dressing room.

''It's very important," he said of the win, his eighth of the season. ''In the end, every game could be the one that makes the difference."

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