The hockey season is not about revenge stories. Teams have their successes and failures, their high-energy games and games that see them dragging their feet. No regular season victory is more important than any other.
Some wins, however, just feel really darn good.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have a difficult history against Boston (24-13-7) this season. On November 10, 2010 they lost 7-4 when they blew a two-goal lead in the third period. History repeated itself only a few days ago when, on January 10, the Pens lost to the Bruins 4-2 despite again having a two-point lead going into the last 20 minutes.
In Boston this afternoon, they played with remarkable fervor, looking to make a statement and erase the fresh embarrassment.
Head Coach Dan Bylsma summarized the team’s motivation in a more professional manner when he spoke to the press earlier today.
“The Bruins are having a good year and they’ve played some good hockey and beaten some good hockey teams. I’m more concerned about what we did in those games (against the Bruins) than whom we did it against, and those are the concerns I have about those two games and ones we’ve addressed and talked about,” he explained.
“We are still going to need to get ourselves into those situations to get better at them and put them behind us in terms of how we need to play. I’d love to be able to do it against a team that we’ve not been able to do it against the previous two times, with a two-goal lead going into the third. We like what we’ve been able to do against Boston at times; we just have not managed the game correctly, appropriately in those third periods and given them opportunities. So having said all that, I’d like to be up by two and take care of it today.”
The Pens definitely took care of it, but it was not easy.
Early in the second, they had a 2-0 lead thanks to wingers Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Things were looking good until 11:28 into the period when Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg scored, followed by another goal a mere 13 seconds later from forward Michael Ryder. The sting was familiar, but the Pens were not about to let their frustration lead to another loss.
“Better then than in the third period,” center Jordan Staal told Sam Kasan of the official Penguins website. “(The Bruins) do a pretty good job with momentum. We settled down between the periods and got back to our game. Better at that time than with five minutes left in the third.”
Yet even when Staal scored in the third to make it 3-2, it was difficult to be optimistic.
However, the Pens were not about to let this game go. The energy on the ice, which had been high throughout, noticeably peaked. Defensive efforts mounted.
The team kept their composure and remained steadfast. Bylsma confirmed Staal’s reasoning.
“I like the fact that we refocused,” he told Kasan. “They’ve come back against us before. To refocus, come out and get the lead in the third – there were some scrambles at times, but we held the fort and got the win. Two big points for us.”
Every Penguin fought hard today. The defense was solid. Winger Matt Cooke had a two-assist game, and Staal had a goal and an assist, proving he is 100% back by earning five points in the last two games. Points were also earned by defenseman Zybnek Michalek and forwards Tyler Kennedy and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has (perhaps unfairly) taken a lot of heat for his lack of production in captain Sidney Crosby’s five-game absence, so it is good to see him make the score sheet. Interestingly, in the last five games, Malkin has only earned points against Boston, with one in each of the two contests.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, however, was the star of the show. The Bruins outshot the Pens by 10, but Fleury would not be bested. He faced 46 shots and made a season-high 44 saves, while Boston net minder Tuukka Rask made 33.
Fleury was especially brilliant at the end of the game, stopping shot after shot in rapid succession when Boston pulled Rask for an extra attacker.
“Fleury really stood on his head in the third period. He got us those two points,” Staal said.
Ultimately, this was just another two-point game in the middle of the regular season. However, every season has its subplots, with highs and lows. Today, the Penguins proved they can learn from their mistakes and overcome them – a well-deserved high.