Black and golden
Bruins continue climb to top of the East by striking down Penguins
PITTSBURGH - Something will derail the Bruins eventually, perhaps even as early as this evening when they play the Jets in Winnipeg. But the good times kept rolling for the defending Stanley Cup champs last night as they pinned a 3-1 loss on the talented Penguins, extending their embarrassment-of-riches tour to 14-0-1.
“We’re playing with confidence,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara, who turned in his typical iron man night with 25 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time. “But what I think is the important thing is that we are sticking to our game plan. We’re not doing anything different just because we’re winning, or
who we’re playing . . . we are playing our game and everything is falling into place.’’
Greg Campbell, Benoit Pouliot, and Tyler Seguin scored the goals, handing the Bruins a 3-0 lead by early in the third period and eventually chipping them to within one point of the Penguins for the lead in the Eastern Conference standings. Dastardly Matt Cooke - who sent Marc Savard down the path of early retirement with a vicious head shot in March 2010 -scored the lone marker for the Penguins, who placed 46 shots on No. 1 star Tim Thomas.
Thomas’s bid for a shutout, what would have been Boston’s fourth during the heady streak, ended at 10:54 of the third. By then, the Penguins, after landing only 23 shots through two periods, were firing shots from every corner of the arena, including Zamboni entrance, pizza stand, and souvenir stand.
One of the stories within the story of the amazing run is that the Bruins now win routinely without relying on their goalies, be it Thomas or Tuukka Rask. Thomas was good last night, nothing new in that, but he also had a 2-0 lead by the 7:18 mark of the second. Such cushions make for an easier night of work when your job is measured by each of the 3,456 square inches you’re expected to protect.
“It is easier, mentally,’’ agreed Thomas, who likely will step aside and let backup Rask handle the work tonight. “It’s easier because you are confident that the team is going to come through each night. If you’re not winning, then the goalie sometimes can put too much pressure on himself, thinking he’s got to be perfect or you’re not going to win.’’
The Bruins were at their best last night when they were forced to kill off a pair of lengthy five-on-three disadvantages. The first came early in the second period, soon after Campbell provided the 1-0 lead. In short order, the Bruins had Brad Marchand and Chara in the penalty box, 50 seconds apart, giving the Penguins a two-man power play for 1:10. They managed two shots, but couldn’t solve Thomas.
Later in the period, at 16:06, the refs called a rare double, sending Pouliot off for goaltender interference and Rich Peverley for hooking. The Penguins placed three shots on Thomas, but again couldn’t solve the two-time Vezina winner. He was as perfect as the quick-stepping parade of penalty killers were in front of him.
“That was a big turning point for us,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “At that stage of the game, it could have gotten them back into it.’’
Mixed between those big kills, though, came Pouliot’s second goal in three games. Enjoying his best night in Black-and-Gold, he raced into the slot after Peverley picked off a pass in the neutral zone to begin the transition. After a perfect pass into the middle, Pouliot snapped a pinpoint wrister to the top right corner.
“Nice pass there,’’ said Pouliot, crediting Peverley. “And Marc-Andre [Fleury] is so good, you’ve got to get it off fast. I’m feeling better, yeah, but I have to thank my linemates [Peverley and Chris Kelly], they make it easy for me out there.’’
Seguin’s goal, his team-high 13th, came at the start of the third, the Bruins handed a power play at the 20:00 mark of the second on a Jordan Staal interference infraction. Seguin and Patrice Bergeron rushed the net in tandem and Seguin made the lightning-quick pot on Bergeron’s dish to the left post.
Cooke’s goal had the once-chippy forward (he says he’s reformed) connecting on a two-on-none break with ex-Northeastern standout Joe Vitale. Vitale edged by Dennis Seidenberg on the right side and Cook zipped ahead of Joe Corvo to finish the strike on Thomas.
If the Bruins win tonight, they could own first place in the conference. They’ve turned into beasts of the East.
“Any time you start out 15th in the conference,’’ said Campbell, noting Boston’s 3-7-0 start in October, “and you go from last to about first place, that’s a huge confidence builder.’’