|Milan Lucic does some cheerleading after fighting Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Last night in the second period, as Marc Savard sprinted into the offensive zone to negate an icing penalty, the No. 1 center had a good idea he was going to get buried if he entered the corner.
Sure enough, he did.
Savard, chasing down a roof of a clear by Mark Stuart (the defenseman had blocked a shot and gotten rid of it before attackers came), got to the puck first to wipe out the icing. But as he did, Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang cleaned Savard's clock as punishment for dipping into the danger area.
Letang's hit, however, didn't come until after Savard shoveled the puck up the wall to Shawn Thornton, who put it on net for P.J. Axelsson to whack past relief netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, recording the Bruins' fourth goal in a 5-1 victory over the Penguins before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden.
"That's part of the mantra of this team," said Aaron Ward of Stuart's block, Savard's play, and Axelsson's score. "It's selflessness, sacrifice - all the things that are required to win, you've got to do. It's a sign when you have a player of such good talent, maybe deemed a finesse player, going in and getting his nose dirty. That's a positive."
Marco Sturm scored two goals, Tim Thomas stopped 27 shots, and the sellout crowd was treated to an end-of-game delight when Milan Lucic threw down with Pittsburgh agitator Jarkko Ruutu.
The Bruins have won their last five games, and their last two home matches. They are only 4 points behind Northeast Division-leading Ottawa, which lost to Philadelphia last night, and 6 points behind Eastern Conference leader New Jersey. Four of the Bruins' next five games are at home.
"We're doing all the little things right now," said Savard, who had two assists. "We've got guys stepping up right now, and it's proving in our play. It's an amazing feeling. The ball gets rolling, guys are blocking shots, and it's a lot of fun."
The ready-for-battle Penguins, restocked Tuesday with the acquisitions of Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis, and Hal Gill, entered the game with a sense of anticipation, wondering if the deadline deals could turn the club into a Stanley Cup favorite.
Instead, the Penguins fell behind early, saw starting goalie Ty Conklin scuffle and get pulled in the second period, and watched Hossa bow out in the middle frame after a collision with Glen Murray. Hossa sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, didn't return, and is expected to be out 7-10 days.
While the Penguins showed off their new roster, the Bruins trotted out the same lineup they did before the deadline.
"We really liked our group," Andrew Ference said. "It was a really big challenge. We definitely looked at this game as a statement against a good team. Not so much the fact that they moved and we didn't. They obviously got a very good player - two good players with Dupuis. We looked at it as going against a team that was a lot more elite than they were."
The scrappy Bruins took a 2-0 lead in the first period, never letting the skilled Penguins unleash their attack. Sturm scored both goals, then Zdeno Chara sailed a slapper from the point at 2:21 of the second period that eluded Conklin, prompting coach Michel Therrien to replace his starter with Fleury, who hadn't seen action since Dec. 6 at Calgary because of an ankle sprain.
After Axelsson's second-period goal, Pittsburgh had a flash of life in the third period when Chara and Dennis Wideman were sent off for roughing during a flare-up that saw only one Penguin, forward Maxime Talbot, go off for boarding. The Bruins killed off the penalty, and even though Dupuis spoiled Thomas's shutout at 13:03, the Boston defense slammed the door for the rest of the game. David Krejci added a power-play goal at 17:49 when he tipped a point shot by Stuart.
"They're blocking shots at key times, getting rid of rebounds, playing well, and playing solid in front of me," Thomas said. "We're getting the lead and getting more than a one- or two-goal lead. We're getting three-goal leads. That makes it easier for me."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.