Two quick goals give Boston all they need versus the Penguins.
Boston, MA – The Boston Bruins ended a three-game skid with a solid 2-1, sixty-minute effort over the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday afternoon. The Bruins punched their post-season ticket on the strength of two first-period goals that came just over two minutes into the game. Jeremy Swayman stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal to close the door on the Penguins and right what felt like a listless ship.
Boston took care of the things that ailed them over the past three games. They got goals from their second and third lines, solid penalty killing, and held onto their early lead. The only thing missing was the elusive power-play strike, but that will surely come with the return of injured winger David Pastrnak.
“Now we can start building our game for the playoffs, which I think we’ve been doing for the last few months,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We’ve just got to get our habits back and hopefully stay healthy.”
Trent Frederic put the Bruins ahead just forty-nine seconds into the game when he banged in a Craig Smith rebound past Penguins keeper Casey DeSmith. The goal was Frederic’s sixth. Frederic sat out the Bruins’ previous game, a 3-2 loss on Thursday to Ottawa, after drawing a costly penalty in Tuesday’s 4-2 loss against the St. Louis Blues. Pittsburgh center Jeff Carter won the face-off back to defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who slapped it behind the net and around the boards, but Frederic hustled to beat John Marino to the puck and chipped it to Smith. Smith put a shot on the net, and Frederic was there to slide in the rebound.
“I just wanted to play hard, try to help the team, play disciplined, and obviously try to get a win,” said Frederic. “Anytime we’re winning, that’s good. (Smith) made a good play to put it to the net. When our line’s successful, that’s what we do. I just got a good bounce so I could put it in the net.”
“Good for him,” said Cassidy when asked about Frederic. “He sat a game, some guys don’t respond well and they come back and they’re bitter. Freddie wasnt’t that way. It was explained to him why and I thought he went out and practiced well yesterday and got rewarded right away going to the right spot.”
Just a minute and twelve seconds later, the Bruins doubled their lead when an Erik Haula shot from the sidewall deflected off of Pittsburgh defenseman Marcus Pettersson and past DeSmith. Haula’s 15th came at 2:01 on Mike Reilly‘s clearing pass to Haula in the neutral zone. Haula carried into the Penguins’ end and fired off a shot that DeSmith (27 saves) stopped, but Haula retrieved the rebound and fired it towards the net, hitting Pettersson’s skate.
Danton Heinen cut the Penguins’ deficit to 2-1 at 5:38 of the second period when his wrist shot beat Swayman glove-side high for his 17th. Brock McGinn gathered a loose puck in the defensive zone and dished it to Teddy Blueger, who carried it into the Bruins’ zone. Blueger curled along the top of the circles and dropped a pass back to Heinen while engaging both Bruins defensemen, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk, on the play. Heinen used the bodies for a screen and fired off a shot for his third goal in the last three games. Carlo got a piece of the puck and may have affected the puck’s trajectory.
“It was a shot that deflected,” said Swayman. “It was one of those weird goals that I saw last second. Good shot by (Heinen). I tried to be on my angle there.”
Boston killed off back-to-back Penguins’ power plays midway through the period. Holding onto second-period leads and killing off penalties had been a struggle for the Bruins over the last few games, but they did deny Pittsburgh from getting any shots on goal during any of their three chances.
Pittsburgh and Boston traded power-play chances in the third period.
First, a Sidney Crosby Slashing call at 4:52 gave the Bruins the man advantage. While the Bruins didn’t capitalize, they did look better than they had previously. Boston is in the midst of an 0-for-25 power-play drought.
— PuckingOff™ (Jason Scales) (@PuckingOff) April 16, 2022
After serving his two minutes, Crosby drew a Tripping penalty on Reilly to no avail.
Pittsburgh pulled DeSmith with under two minutes remaining and did threaten, but Swayman held firm, and Boston picked up the two points and moved into a tie with the Penguins on 97 points each.
“I thought the final 58 (minutes), we were competitive,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought we played a solid game, but the first two (minutes) we weren’t ready to play. It’s hard to spot a team two goals like that in the fashion that we did. It makes it hard to win.”
The Bruins are off until Tuesday when they face off against the Blues in St. Louis at Enterprise Center. The Penguins are off until Boston visits PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Thursday, April 21, 2022.