A game of bounces, a game of luck. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins both had a week plus break between games when they met tonight for game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, but it was Boston that made enough plays to skate away with the win.
Early in the game, signs were good for the Pens. They outshot the Bruins 12-7 in the first period, and generally carried the play, but ominously it would be Boston that scored the only goal of the period when Pittsburgh gave the playoffs leading scorer David Krejci. Krejci rocketed a slapshot that clipped off of the skate of Paul Martin and beat Tomas Vokoun.
The game would turn for the nastier in the second. Matt Cooke leveled Adam McQuaid from behind, earning a five minute major and game misconduct. Brad Marchand hit James Neal from behind but only drew a two minute minor. At the conclusion of the second period, a frustrated Sidney Crosby intentionally bumped goalie Tuukka Rask, setting off skirmishes all around the rink, highlighted by a full-blown fight between Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron.
In the third period Mark Eaton failed to clear a puck and Nathan Horton won a wall battle, springing the puck to Krejci who was able to bat one in past Kris Letang and Vokoun for a 2-0 edge. Boston would tack one more on when Horton slammed home a rebound of a Gregory Campbell shot with 12:09 left in the game. That was all she wrote for game one.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- Rask was a difference maker. He made all the stops and even when the Pens beat him, the pucks either trickled wide (like Malkin and Brenden Morrow did early in the game) or hit the post (like Kunitz and Crosby did early). Still, take nothing away from Rask, who was very sharp and earned his first career playoff shutout.
- Disappointing to see the Pens lack of compsosure. I'm sure Crosby was frustrated, but is the way to address that to go after the goalie after the period ends? Sid didn't act in a constructive way and he'll need to regain some focus.
- Malkin was probably the Pens best player. He was very active all over the ice, often gaining the puck and advancing it into scoring situations. Just didn't get it in the net. A tip of the hat to Rask, but hopefully Geno stays hungry (and out of the box).
- Boston dominated the faceoff circle, winning 67% of the 48 draws on the night. Bergeron (63%), Chris Kelly (75%) and Krejci (83%) were the best performers in the dot. Jussi Jokinen (60% on ten draws) had a good night there, but Crosby (35%), Brandon Sutter (30%) and Malkin (17%) were all pretty dreadful.
- Can't lose the majority of the faceoffs and fail to clear the puck in wall battles like Eaton did. He wasn't the only one, but when it ends up in your net this time of year, it stands out.
- The "wow, those guys actually played" award tonight goes to Sutter and Tyler Seguin. Very quiet nights for both of those guys. So much for hoping the long layoff would help Sutter's quiet post-season.
- Anyone calling for Marc-Andre Fleury after this game, probably didn't watch this game. Vokoun was sharp- stopping Bergeron on a clear breakaway was huge- but there was nothing Vokoun could do in this one. The Pens weren't breaking through, and they weren't good in faceoffs and puck possession. Not a good combination, and this one isn't on Vokoun.
- One bright spot: the penalty kill. Zero goals allowed in 8:50 by the Pens, who did well to keep Boston to the outside (or keep knocking the puck out of the zone.
- A not-so-bright-spot: the 0-fer on the power play. The Pens got some decent looks and zone-time, but couldn't beat Rask. Story of the night.
Now we'll see how the Penguins bounce back. They haven't been behind in a series yet this year, and now they are. And they have something to think about when it comes to beating Rask, as well as keeping their composure.
It wasn't pretty tonight, no doubt about that. But a seven game series isn't over after the first night. Time to regroup, adjust and hopefully come out with a better effort in Game 2.