Pittsburgh using the lines and lineup that is becoming familiar as of late with what they’ve got to work with.
The mighty Boston Bruins roll into town having already clinched the NHL’s best record (Presidents Trophy). Having no pressure, the B’s rest Patrice Bergeron and shuffle their forward lines around as a result.
As the ABC broadcast pointed out, the Pens are the league’s worst playoff team in the first period and they live up to that billing. Chad Ruhwedel takes a roughing penalty and while Pittsburgh kills off almost all of the penalty, they can’t quite escape a nice diving pass from Pavel Zacha over to Charlie MacAvoy. MacAvoy has an easy finish to put Boston where they typically are: out in front.
Just 1:13 later, Pittsburgh answers. Sidney Crosby ends his long assist drought by feathering a beautiful pass through Dmitry Orlov. It lands for Bryan Rust, who scores his first goal with the goalie in the net since February 25th. 1-1 game.
The 17th goal of the season for #17! pic.twitter.com/sgtkcZuK3V— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 1, 2023
The Pens are trying to hold on, but having trouble keeping up. Shot attempts at one point are 22-4 for the Bruins. P.O. Joseph makes the next big mistake after getting hemmed in by feeling the pressure and skying the puck to take a delay of game. Pittsburgh kills this one off.
It’s Boston going to the penalty box yet, with the officials seeing David Krejci hooking someone. Not sure what reality they were in to see anything close to a penalty, but at this point the Pens could use the break. Unfortunately for them, they don’t do anything with it.
In the dying seconds of the period Jake Guentzel is sprung on a clean breakaway. He gets two cracks at it, first with a long shot and then he’s got a lot of open net on the rebound but just can’t quite steer it in.
Jeremy Swayman shuts the door on Jake Guentzel pic.twitter.com/R2Bt0QEFs6— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 1, 2023
Play goes the other way and Evgeni Malkin trips a Bruin to make the third Penguin penalty of the period with only three seconds left.
Shots in the first are 12-4. The Pens are holding on for dear life but still in the game after 20 minutes.
The Bruins have the majority of a power play to work with, and they again use almost all of it before striking. A poor effort to clear the puck by Ruhwedel doesn’t get out of the line. Orlov backhands one in that David Pastrnak puts a great tip on from right in front, giving Jarry no chance. It’s Pasta’s 54th of the season, and he crosses the 100-point plateau at the Pens’ expense en route to also giving the Bruins a 2-1 lead.
Guentzel finds space and gets another quality shot, with Bryan Rust also getting a crack at the rebound but Jeremy Swayman is up to the task.
Pittsburgh gets a power play and then after a while Crosby is cross-checked in front of the net to yield a 5v3 power play for the Pens. Pittsburgh uses their timeout to prepare. The NHL’s top ranked PK holds them off.
The second period was a better one for the Pens, but still a frustrating one where they fell behind and let great opportunities to score slip away.
Pastrnak hits a post and the play goes the other way. Rust calls his own number with a shot and it goes in the back of the net. There is some confusion when MacAvoy wipes out and into his goalie, but MacAvoy went into the goalie by his own accord. 2-2 game with 15:51 to play.
The tie doesn’t last long, Pastrnak rips a shot from Jarry’s left that quickly goes in and out of the net for another goal after hitting Ruhwedel. 3-2 Bruins, 12:52 to play.
The Pens don’t get discouraged and find a tying goal yet again. Brian Dumoulin makes another great setup, this time for Guentzel. Guentzel snaps the puck on net, and with Sidney Crosby providing a screen it sneaks by Swayman. The Bruins challenge, citing Crosby interfering on Swayman. There was a minimal amount of contact, but the refs don’t buy it denying Swayman the chance to play his position. Good goal 3-3 game.
Since March 7, Jake Guentzel's goal total is tied for FIRST in the NHL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 1, 2023
Guentzel has 11 goals (11G-3A) over his last 14 games. pic.twitter.com/SqGpgKqtjE
Pittsburgh gets a power play as a result of Boston delaying the game on the unsuccessful challenge. No dice again.
But with 4:48 left, it’s another Pittsburgh power play chance when Josh Archibald is boarded by David Krejci. It lets them down again.
And Pastrnak slams home his hat trick. Kris Letang’s clearing attempt hits an official and a few quick passes later it’s Pasta blasting one in with 2:26 to go. 4-3 Bruins.
At the 1:30 to go mark, Jarry vacates for an extra attacker. Pastrnak takes yet another Boston penalty by high-sticking Letang.
With 56 seconds left, the Penguins have a sixth power play and it’s a 6v4 to claw and find a way to tie the game for the fourth time. But the power play doesn’t start scoring now and that’s the game.
- This could have been a first round playoff preview, and if you’re the Pens you can’t have totally hated what you saw, aside from too much Pasta and an awful power play. Sure, Boston didn’t have Bergeron and started their backup goalie, and they weren’t playing at a full playoff intensity. Still, Pittsburgh hung tough and despite being over-matched at times were also resilient enough to tie the Bruins three times.
- Pittsburgh got some chances though, Rakell hesitated on a pass during a 2-on-1 and ran out of space. Mikael Granlund did that thing where he also had a 2-on-1 and whiffed on a shot (or pass or whatever that was), which has been a repeated occurrence for him. Guentzel nearly scored on a breakaway and then a follow-up late in the first. The 5-on-3 in the second. Gotta make the most of some of those chances when playing a team this good.
- Special teams ended up being the difference maker, the Bruins didn’t score quickly or easily but still found a way to pull out two power play goals. The Pens let that glorious 5v3 chance slide away, after being extremely effective recently in such situations. Pittsburgh had SIX power plays, for 9:15 of the game. Zero goals. Atrocious. It cost them at least one point in the standings. That’s the story of this game.
- What a time for Rust’s first multi-goal game of the season. The team badly needs him to pick it up and start putting the pucks in the net and he’s getting it going.
- Dumoulin had a nice pass (second game in a row!) but it’s also hard to overlook his defending against Pastrnak on two of the goals against. Granted, all-world level shooter that is going to make lots of defenders look silly, but I think you’d want a little better from Dumo in his own end, especially not lunging or taking away the shot on the game winner.
Rough ending and outcome for the Penguins, who stood toe-to-toe with the NHL’s best, but couldn’t find a way to get a result. Pittsburgh is back at it tomorrow, hosting the Flyers.