Brutal ending tonightt for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3 of their series against the Boston Bruins.
After blowing their cool in Game 1 and getting beat 3-0 and basically laughed out in Game 2 with a 6-1 pounding, the Pens showed up tonight. They competed defensively, finally made things difficult for the Bruins to advance the puck up the ice and maintained excellent defensive coverage and posturing for most of the night.
And, after a early game hiccup between Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen flubbing a play and seeing the puck take a crazy bounce and beat Tomas Vokoun, we had every reason to think it'd be the beginning of the end.
But it wasn't, the Pens buckled down and finally acted like they belonged. They showed a high compete level and worked for chances. They peppered 54 shots on Tuukka Rask, but only beat him once that ended up in the net.
They deserved a better fate than having Evgeni Malkin- who was probably the best player in the game with a game high 10 shots on goal (with 11 more attempts)- get hooked by Jaromir Jagr before spinning the play to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron for the game winning goal.
They deserved more for Sidney Crosby, helmet knocked off but still blazing for the puck in the offensive zone to make a play to end the game.
They especially deserved more for Tomas Vokoun who was calm and steady in net, providing much needed support and backbone. And for every player up and down the roster, who hustled, blocked 24 shots, got in passing lanes, threw 46 hits, wrestled 10 takeaways and generally controlled the play, outside of an icing and penalty fest towards the end of the first OT.
But, when it comes to hockey, deserve got nothin' to do with it. It's whoever makes plays that wins the game, and tonight Boston did that. They hit their fair share of posts too and also played a tough, spirited game.
For the Pittsburgh Penguins, the opportunity lost isn't that they're now down 0 games to 3, but that they couldn't have played like they did tonight in period 3 of Game 1 (when they were only losing 1-0) or moments into Game 2, when they quickly unraveled and never really got to start. It's a seven game series and every bit adds up. Consistency counts.
You can discuss the little details and where it goes from here, and there's plenty of time for that. But right now, on this night, it's hard to feel a little cheated for Pens fans, because the team was again on the short end of the stick tonight, but for the first time, they didn't really deserve to be.