With only three games left on their regular season schedule, the Boston Bruins have clinched both the Northeast Division and the second playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The first of the final three games will be a national televised game against the highly skilled Pittsburgh Penguins- a possible preview of this season’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown.
While the Bruins cant change their current position in the standings, a win against the Pens would certainly build confidence, a crucial characteristic for any run at the Stanley Cup.
As expected, Tim Thomas is getting some much-needed rest and Marty Turco is slated to start in net. One of Turco’s first games as a Bruin was in Pittsburgh where he got shelled by the Pens. Turco (2-1 with a 3.28 GAA and .867 Save %) will face Brent Johnson (4-7 with a 3.15 GAA and .883 save percentage) in net.
Only 30 seconds into the first period David Krejci received a delay of game penalty, but the Bruins PK was able to shut down the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, and Kris Letang. Sloppy play preceded the Pens power-play, and the game remained scoreless eight minutes into the first.
Pittsburgh got on the board first as Sidney Crosby, arguably the best player in the NHL, was left uncovered the front of the Bruins net, and roofed the puck past Turco for the goal. It was a strong play by Pascal Dupuis to find the loose puck behind the net, and make the perfect feed to Crosby. The goal was Crosby’s sixth of the season.
Paul Martin scored his second goal of the season to extend the Pittsburgh lead to 2-0. The Bruins defense broke down in their own end, allowing easy entry for the Pittsburgh forwards. Martin trailed the play and put a wrist shot on net that snuck through Turco; Tyler Kennedy and Letang assisted the goal.
Shortly after the Pens took a 2-0, the Bruins third line came up huge again. Benoit Pouliot scored on an unbelievable rush, and even more impressive backhand shot roofing the puck past Johnson. The goal was Pouliot’s 15th of the season, assisted by line-mates Brian Rolston and Chris Kelly.
Just 18 seconds into the second period, Milan Lucic scored his 25th goal of the season, tying the game at 2. Krejci and Rich Peverley provided a tremendous fore-check, applying pressure to the Pittsburgh defensemen, and forcing the turnover that led to the goal. Peverley is certainly looking more comfortable out there after recently returning from a knee injury- he and Krejci recorded the assists on Lucic’s goal.
Back to back questionable calls then went against the Bruins, leaving them in tough spot facing the lethal Pittsburgh power-play. The Pens were able to net both a five on three, and a five on four goal — one by Neal and one by Crosby giving them a 4-2 lead.
Aaron Asham added a goal for the Pens, as did Peverley for the Bruins, and the final score read 5-3 Pittsburgh. The Bruins also lost Johnny Boychuk to what looked a knee injury late in the third period. Boychuk was spotted leaving the Garden walking with a slight limp, but without crutches- always an encouraging sign when dealing with knee injuries. Coach Claude Julien said we would learn more about Boychuk’s status on Wednesday.
Next up the Bruins face their expected first round opponent in the Ottawa Senators Thursday night. Let the playoff trash-talk begin!
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