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RECAP: Big hits rock Pens/Bruins game, Boston takes 2-1 win

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The Penguins winning streak is over at the hands of the Boston Bruins, and worse, Evgeni Malkin leaves the game with an injury

NHL: MAR 16 Bruins at Penguins Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pregame

The Penguins rock green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys for warmup and Teddy Blueger isn’t playing. Mark Jankowski goes up and a line and then have Sam Lafferty in to replace Jankowski on the fourth line. The only other change is in net where Casey DeSmith gets the start tonight.

First period

First shift, David Pastrnak takes a boarding call that isn’t really that egregious and the refs quickly even if up early in the Pens power play by calling Evgeni Malkin for holding when he doesn’t hold a player at all, so...Ok. Classic even up call. Pretty blatant, even.

The Bruins strike at the tail-end of their short power play in transition. They use speed to open up the Penguins PK and Brad Marchand hits Pastrnak with a nice pass and Pasta expertly dekes to the five hole and slides the puck past DeSmith. 1-0 Boston.

The next notable happening is Evgeni Malkin getting crunched in open ice with big collision from Jarred Tinordi. Malkin would go to the lockerroom for a bit, come back for a power play but again leave the bench.

Colton Sceviour gets a great chance from in the net but Daniel Vladar, in his first NHL start, throws out his stick in desperation and somehow makes the stop.

Pastrnak goes back to the box for another fairly weak penalty call (reffing tonight is very meh) but the Bruins kill it off. However, shortly after it expires, the Pens score. Kasperi Kapanen breaks up an outlet and throws the puck to the net. Evan Rodrigues makes a fancy little tip on the incoming shot but Vladar stops it. He leaves a rebound though and Brandon Tanev is right on the door step to swat the puck into the net. 1-1 game.

Another high-octane and open first period between these teams, shots are 15 a piece.

Second period

Boston back to the box early in the period for Patrice Bergeron checking Jake Guentzel in the head. The Pens PP fizzles without Malkin, and in the confusion of new personnel they take a too many men call. The PK survives.

The Pens go back to the PK when Marcus Pettersson takes another penalty but again they kill it off.

Then, the game changes with a big hit. Brandon Tanev hits Tinordi, who is on one leg and goes into the boards awkwardly. The hit isn’t high, isn’t late, isn’t really that unusual besides the result which leaves Tinordi face down on the ice. The trail ref doesn’t call anything. However, the others rack him up for a major and a game misconduct. A long video review somehow upholds the call.

The Pens have to kill off 5 minutes, of an “all you can score” PP for the Bruins, and they do just that. Great job by the PK’ers, Mark Jankowski might have had the best scoring chance of the long sequence with a breakaway but, alas, can’t finish.

Pittsburgh escapes the period tied at 1, but down two forwards.

Shots in the second are 13-9 Boston, but pretty good of the Pens to keep it that close, all things considered.

Third period

Brad Marchand gets a high sticking call on the first shift, but the disjointed Pittsburgh power play continues.

The Bruins take the lead when Trent Frederic joins the play late on a change and finds some open ice. With Letang and Pastrnak parked in front of DeSmith, the goalie can’t see the puck coming and it finds some open net. 2-1.

The Pens pull DeSmith with about 1:50 left, the Pens put on a push until the final whistle but can’t find the next goal before the horn and Boston wins 2-1.

Some thoughts

  • Earlier today after the morning skate, Mike Sullivan called Jared McCann a game-time decision. He didn’t say anything about Blueger, who didn’t seem to suffer any obvious injury last game. It was a shock at lineup time, when the Pens didn’t get stronger by getting McCann back, they suffered a loss by not having Blueger available.
  • Compounding matters, the Malkin injury in the first period hurts. It never is a good or right time to lose a player so talented, but in the middle of five games in seven days and with Blueger gone, woof. The Pens center situation went from perfectly fine Crosby-Malkin-Blueger down the middle to now, officially being I guess, Crosby-Rodrigues-Jankowski in about an hour of real time tonight.
  • 2 out of 4 times the Pens had a power play, they took a penalty on it...Not ideal, to say the least! The power play had really been great in the winning streak but went cold big time tonight. Not coincidentally, the winning streak ends.
  • Reportedly (heard this second hand) even Jack Edwards on the Boston broadcast didn’t think it should have been a major penalty on Tanev. When THAT happens, you know it was just a bad call. Not sure why the video review wouldn’t or couldn’t over-turn the call on the ice, but that’s just a bad look for the league.
  • Coincidence or not, it felt like the Bruins were head-hunting on Guentzel in both of the games this week. Two penalties the B’s took tonight were for contact to Guentzel’s head and it just felt like they were finishing everything high on him possible.
  • With Malkin hurt, Kapanen replaced him on the top power play. The Pens didn’t have a lot of choices and Kapanen is clearly the most skilled player available to get there but it didn’t make for a cohesive fit. From second guess territory, it would have seemed more fitting to replace the LH mainly-point player of Malkin with another in Mike Matheson.
  • In the third period the Pens “second” line was Zach Aston-Reese, Rodrigues and Kapanen. The third line is what started as the fourth line Scevior, Jankowki, Anthony Angello. The Crosby line remained the same, and Sam Lafferty is barely playing, so Pittsburgh was basically using nine forwards (with Tanev ejected and Malkin injured). Not really a group that is going to comeback and win many games when down.
  • Dan Vladar stopped 34/35 for a win in his first start. He was good. Definitely did the job and that robbery of Scveiour was a standout, but otherwise despite a high number of shots it didn’t feel like he had to be extraordinary.
  • Certainly due to the big hits involving Tinordi, this game had that playoff feel.

And with that, a six game winning streak is toast. Can’t win forever, but this was an extra painful loss besides just the loss given the injury to Malkin and apparently Blueger. Hopefully that doesn’t turn into a lasting deal, because the Pens do not have the ability to replace two important centers at the same time. Pens are back on the road at New Jersey on Thursday.