The B’s scored three times in the second period, which has consistently been their worst 20 minutes for several seasons, and showed glimpses of the play that earned them the nickname “The Big Bad Bruins”, before holding on to claim a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden.
Brad Marchand tied the game at 2-2 with two goals in the middle period, while Riley Nash and Patrice Bergeron added tallies for Boston, who ended the first half of their schedule with back-to-back victories after a four-game losing streak that contained some brutally bad outings.
The Penguins are one of the most explosive offensive teams in the NHL, so the Bruins’ defense was bound to have their hands full on Thursday night. Rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo picked an awful time to have one of his worst periods this season, as he was the goal scorer for Pittsburgh’s first tally of the night.
Penguins’ defenseman Justin Schultz and forward Conor Sheary broke into the Boston zone, and Schultz attempted to send a pass across the front of the net to Sheary. Sheary was tangled up by the Bruins’ defense, but the puck went right to Carlo’s stick. The rookie was facing the Bruins’ net, which was vacated briefly by Tuukka Rask, and he inadvertently sent it directly into the net to give Schultz his eighth goal of the year.
Carlo’s first period went from bad to worse around the midway point of the frame, as he headed to the penalty box for a cross-check. The Pens’ potent power-play added to their lead, as former Bruin Phil Kessel took a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby and had the entire net to fire at, as Rask got caught up in a ton of traffic. Schultz picked up the secondary assist on the play, which was his 27th helper of the season (tied with Crosby for third on the Penguins).
The Bruins went on the penalty kill just 36 seconds into the second period, and Zdeno Chara had to make a save on a shot from Sheary to preserve the two-goal deficit. The Pens then made a poor line change, which gave the B’s an opportunity to capitalize, with Marchand tallying his third shorthanded goal of the season and 22nd of his career to cut the Penguins’ lead to 2-1.
Schultz went off for a change, but the Pens gave the puck up in the Bruins’ end, which left Kessel as the only person back for Pittsburgh. Bergeron picked up the loose puck and sent Marchand up ice, bouncing his pass off the boards as Marchand was breaking free. Marchand took the breakaway into the Penguins’ zone and beat goalie Matt Murray threw the five-hole for his 20th goal of the season, which ties him with David Pastrnak for the team lead.
Marchand, who was fined $10,000 for slewfooting Niklas Kronwall on Tuesday night but somehow avoided a suspension, wasted little time in claiming the team lead in goals and evening up the game at 2-2. Boston executed a great set play off of a faceoff win in the Pittsburgh end, with Bergeron sending the puck back to Carlo. Carlo set up Pastrnak for a one-timer that was stopped by Murray, but Marchand buried the rebound glove-side for his second goal in a 4:49 span.
Boston’s terrific period got even better on a 4-on-4, as Nash tipped in a shot from Torey Krug to give the B’s a 3-2 lead midway through the middle period. Nash picked up a loose puck behind the Pens’ net, then set up camp in front of Murray. Dominic Moore gave Krug a short pass in the right circle, and the defenseman sent a quick shot on net that was deflected up over Murray by Nash for Boston’s third goal in less than nine minutes. It was Nash’s third goal of the season, with Krug earning his 27th assist of the year – tying him with Schultz and Crosby in the top 30 of the NHL.
Things got nasty with just under five minutes left in the second, as Kessel and David Backes engaged in a brief fight before Eric Fehr jumped in the fray. Backes and Kessel picked up matching roughing and cross-checking penalties, while Fehr earned a roughing penalty as well. The Bruins could not add to their lead in the power play, but had another chance to inflict punishment before the period ended, as Colin Miller and Scott Wilson produced an entertaining bout after a whistle with under a minute left. Wilson earned an extra two minute penalty for instigating and a ten-minute misconduct, as he came right off the bench to engage Miller in the fight, which Miller convincingly won.
The Bruins started the third period on the power play, and added to their lead as Bergeron netted his 11th goal of the season to give Boston a 4-2 lead just 51 seconds in. Ryan Spooner worked the puck down the zone before sending it cross-ice to Pastrnak. Pastrnak fed Bergeron at the front of the net, along with Marchand and several Penguins’ defenders. Bergeron snagged the loose puck and roofed it over Murray, but the goal was not originally signaled due to it ricocheting off the back pipe in the net.
The top line of Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak outshot the entire Penguins team 7-6 from the start of the second period to the middle of the third, but only one shot was needed from Pittsburgh to cut the Bruins’ lead to 4-3. Patric Hornqvist took the puck deep down the boards and then made his way to the front of the net. Chris Kunitz beat Colin Miller to the puck behind the net, and the Pittsburgh forward found Hornqvist at the crease before he stuffed it in the net with 9:25 left in regulation.
The B’s had a huge penalty kill with less than five minutes left in the third, then earned their own power play with around 2:30 remaining. Pastrnak was called for a trip with 1:16 left to force a 4-on-4, which allowed the Penguins to pull Murray and pick up a power play for the final 28 seconds of regulation. Chara made a huge clear from behind the net with 15 seconds left, and the Pens were called for offsides on their last-chance rush, which gave the Bruins the exciting victory in their last game before the All-Star break.
The Bruins will send Marchand and Rask to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game this weekend, and the whole team will return to action with two road games in two nights, starting on Tuesday evening in Tampa Bay.
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