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Penguins vs. Bruins Recap: Pittsburgh’s great comeback spoiled late in 6-4 loss

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The Pens use a four goal second period to dig out of a hole but Boston manages to come back and win 6-4 in regulaton

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins are going as expected - Dominik Kahun replaces the injured Patric Hornqvist, but it’s Bryan Rust bumping up a line to Hornqvist’s spot. New papa Brian Dumoulin is with the team and will play.

The Bruins throw a bit of a change-up and give backup Jaroslav Halak only his second home start of the season.

First period

After a quick open, Boston strikes first. Jake DeBrusk picks off a Kris Letang pass in the neutral zone and motors into the zone. At a long angle he snaps a puck that catches Matt Murray off his angle and carries into the net. Odd play all around and one Murray would want back that unfortunately set the tone of his night. 1-0 Bruins about six minutes into the contest.

The Pens get a power play, it goes like the last 20, they don’t score. Alex Galchenyuk does rip a shot off the post at least.

Boston makes it 2-0 on a broken play in front of the net. Brad Marchand makes a nice play batting the puck as it was fluttering in the air so (yuck) credit him for that. 2-0 B’s. Not too nice to see Sidney Crosby as the only Penguin in the scene (Marcus Pettersson and Justin Schultz had chased to the same corner) but this one just seemed more bad luck/nice skill to end up in the back of the net.

Period ends, and the Pens are down, but they wouldn’t quite be out.

Second period

The bleeding continues early into the second. David Pastrnak maybe uses Letang as a bit screen to snap a shot-side short past Murray, and right now he’s got one of the best wristers in the league, but eesh tough one to take. Three goals all on ones Murray would have been saving early in the week, and all in the first 25 minutes of the game. Coach Mike Sullivan gives him the hook in favor of backup Tristan Jarry.

And it really works. The Pens come to life and absolutely dominate the period in terms of puck possession, chances and eventually start chipping away at the three goal hole. First it’s Dominik Kahun, collecting a loose rolling puck and quickly putting it on net before Halak can recover. He does this less than a minute after Boston’s third goal, really stoking the fire for the Pens comeback.

Then after a ton more pressure, a Bruins’ defenseman changes but unfortunately for him Letang has the puck. Letang rifles a perfect (almost) three-line pass up for Nick Bjugstad who is in all alone thanks to the mis-timed change. Bjugstad rips a shot off the post and into the net to cut the Boston lead to 3-2.

It’s time for the Evgeni Malkin line to step up. Galchenyuk springs Malkin with a long pass, Malkin pulls up a throws a perfect cross-ice pass to Bryan Rust who has a step on the defender. Rust doesn’t deke and just shoots it by Halak’s glove. 3-3 tie game, the Pens have dug all the way out of a big hole on the road against arguably the league’s top team early in the year. Wow.

John Marino takes a penalty, putting Boston’s No. 1 ranked power play on the ice, but they can’t score. As Marino’s penalty expires time is ticking down on the period but he gets a breakaway, dekes backhand and tucks one through Halak’s five-hole to give Pittsburgh a lead.

The Pens’ players all go crazy celebrating with Marino, it’s been a while since they’ve been so happy to see a young guy get his first goal, and in the midst of such a massive comeback.

Shots in the period were 21-6 Pittsburgh. They poured it on and took all the momentum after the goalie change. It wasn’t because necessarily of the change but that did immediately kick the team into gear for probably their finest period of the young season to rattle off four straight goals and totally control play against a solid opponent.

Third period

The Pens keep the pressure up in the third, forcing Boston to ice the puck several times in a “hang on” mode. The game shifts when post-whistle Zach Aston-Reese gets in a scrum with Brandon Carlo and both players take coincidental minors. The Bruins carry the 4v4 play, and Torey Krug wires a puck past Jarry to tie the game at 4.

The Pens suffer another loss as Letang leaves the bench for some reason.

Boston has the momentum at this point and Bjugstad takes a defensive zone penalty to send the dangerous Bruin power play back on the ice. But it’s Rust who gets the best chance, racing away on a short-handed breakaway. Halak stops it but Charlie McAvoy bonks his head off the post and spouts blood as a result of trying to chase it down.

Alex Galchenyuk comes close to scoring his first as a Pen with 2:59 left but the net is off it’s moorings, after Rust drove to the net, so no goal is the call by the officials after a quick conference.

And then the game turned, Marino was pinching down and fired from a sharp angle that kicked out. Marchand shoots on the rush that beats Jarry’s glove and hits the post, then some bad luck to hit Jarry’s back and trickles into the net before Crosby can help out to clear the puck from danger it ends up in the net. 5-4 Boston takes the lead with 1:57 left.

Patrice Bergeron tacks on the empty netter with 13 seconds left to seal the Boston win at 6-4 and complete a wild game.

Three final thoughts

Pens show gumption. How many times last season (especially early in the year) did we see the Pens go down 2-0, 3-0 early and then totally mail it in? And usually lose like 7-1 or worse, most times. Too much. This team didn’t quit though, on the road in a very deep hole. That shows a lot. It helps when Kahun scores almost immediately to breathe life into the comeback, and from there the Pens kept pouring it on in the period until they were ahead. There aren’t any moral victories in the standings, but it said something to at least not just mail this game in.

Depth shines. It was great to see the comeback wasn’t fueled by the top line either. Guys just back from injury (Bjugstad and Rust) are needed to step up, and they did — both finding space and unleashing great shots. Marino showed excellent awareness to know the period was almost over, come out of the box and immediately take advantage of the puck coming to him. Given what we’ve seen of him in the past few months, that’s no surprise that he was willing to push in alone and showed some nice hands to score a goal basically in his hometown for a first career tally.

Letang injury. Letang didn’t play the last 13:53 of the game, nothing obvious seemed to go wrong but without him on the bench the Pens rotated up Marino (21:35 played) with Dumoulin and Marino’s decision started the sequence of Marchand’s GWG. Obviously the potential loss of Letang will loom very large and really is the biggest takeaway that could come out of the game, so we’ll have to stay tuned and see what word comes out of this.

Otherwise, it’s a tough result. Pittsburgh started OK and had to deal with a bad start by Murray. But they got it all back in a fast and furious second period, which unfortunately had to end and let the game turn a bit. Also, looking back, Aston-Reese’s decision to get into a pretty needless scrum also ended up helping Boston find their legs in the 4v4 situation which didn’t end up well. Up 4-3 in the third and on the road it might have been wiser to step away.

Didn’t end up working out for the team, but they can at least hang their hats on knowing when they’re playing well, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Now to clean up some of the mistakes and focus on finishing. The Pens will get another chance to test themselves against another opponent in top form when they meet the Islanders on Thursday night.