Skaters are the same for the Penguins, but it’s the goalie who ended the last game that starts this game in the form of Alex Nedeljkovic.
The Bruins roll into the game on a four-game winning streak, the NHL’s best point total and this lineup.
The game opens with a crazy, frenetic pace. The NHL started announcing the All-Stars tonight before the game, and the Pens and Bruins got in the spirit by scoring as many goals as a typical All-Star game in the early going.
Brad Marchand hit Marcus Pettersson behind the net, then beat him at the front of the net to a loose puck to open the scoring just 41 seconds after the first whistle. That set the tone for the onslaught of goals that was to come.
At the 5:01 mark, Drew O’Connor answered Marchand’s goal in a somewhat similar way to win a puck off the end wall and then knock in a rebound from an outside shot. 1-1 game and the first of four goals in the next 2:17 stretch.
Just what the DOC ordered! pic.twitter.com/TvzBpy7wfV— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2024
1:13 after the O’Connor goal, Ryan Graves notched his second goal of the season, sending a fluttering puck in that Jeremy Swayman couldn’t track after it might have hit off a player. 2-1 Pens, but not for long.
A goal of Grave(s) importance. pic.twitter.com/EvFPVBPQaD— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2024
Only 22 seconds after Graves’ goal, David Pastrnak evens the score. Nedeljkovic misses with his poke check and the somehow completely unmarked Pastrnak zips to a backhand finish. 2-2.
Next up was Pittsburgh’s chance to respond. Kris Letang’s long stretch pass turns into a 2-on-1 for Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Sid feeds Jake and they make it look easy. 3-2 Pens are back in front.
Crosby to Guentzel is our favorite work of art. pic.twitter.com/S1dwsdaqWo— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2024
P.O Joseph takes the game’s first penalty, but it is the Penguins who come closer to scoring when O’Connor and Lars Eller have a 2-on-0 breakaway. They don’t score, but put a pin in this thought.
Towards the end of the period, Erik Karlsson makes a nice play from the blueline to feather a pass into the middle for O’Connor. He passes to Eller from a sharp angle, but the shot is true and O’Connor and Eller team up for that goal they missed out on a little earlier. 4-2.
Shots go 16-11 PIT in the first. Wild opening frame.
A quiet opening compared to the first frame, Pittsburgh gets their first power play of the night and Jeff Carter scores from in front just after it expires. 5-2.
We're doing Cartswheels!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 5, 2024
Keep pushing pic.twitter.com/INSxXAFSdF
The Pens seem to be in full control, Guentzel hits a post on a breakaway, Crosby has Swayman dead to rights and out of his crease but he can’t find a pass for an easy goal. All Pittsburgh at this point.
That control isn’t to be, Pastrnak wires a cross-ice pass and then Morgan Geekie shoots from the right side in past Nedeljkovic. 5-3 game.
Letang has to hook a Bruin to prevent a tap in goal to concede the second Bruins power play of the game. Pittsburgh kills it off.
Boston gets a goal to close within one before the end of the period. Brandon Carlo hammers a shot from the point, Nedeljkovic has some traffic buzzing but can’t pick up the puck. 5-4.
Up 5-2, the Pens couldn’t put Boston away and a few goals make this a competitive game with 20 to go.
Boston starts off where they left off pushing for a goal, and not even Charlie MacAvoy going to the box for delay of game can stop them. Marchand abuses Kris Letang on the rush and flicks a shot up and over Nedeljkovic for a short handed goal to tie the game at 5.
History almost repeats, MacAvoy goes back to the box for holding Carter, but this time it’s the Penguins that score the goal while on their power play. Crosby rockets a shot from the slot that hit a Boston defender and scoots right into the net. Pens back up 6-5 but with 8:38 to play.
The Bruins act quickly to pull the goalie, they have a faceoff just outside the offensive blue line with 2:41 left but lift the keeper anyways. Why not in a game like this.
Boston utilizes their timeout with 1:25 to go and plenty of offensive zone time along the way. They get a few last cracks at it, but can’t score and time runs out.
- Most of the betting sites had the over/under line of 5.5 set in this one. That took less than 16 minutes of the first period for that over to hit.
- And your Bob Grove stat of the night: tonight marked the first time in 112 games @BOS that the Pens scored four times in the first period.
- 36-year old Letang sent 36-year old Crosby ahead for the Guentzel goal to show how the old Penguins can still play fast at an older age. And the best way to do that is to let the puck do most of the work. It’s the classic old teaching/coaching cliche that kids learn from the time they play organized hockey, but as it turns out the puck does move faster than the player.
- After the opening minute goal against (bad!) the Pens actually settled in and had a great period. They didn’t give up a lot of chances or shots, were great through the middle of the zones and capitalized with their finishing like crazy.
- The second period was a different story. Nedeljkovic was playing because he’s been making the saves a team needs to win games, but he gave up two goals that period that a goalie probably should get in front of at least one of them. Made for a nervy finish, both of those goals changed the whole complexion of the game and made Boston start believing the comeback was possible. It nearly was.
- Drew O’Connor in the past few days and games has been blossoming into the player that the Pens have hoping he would be all season. It wasn’t there at first, but the patience is starting to play off, he’s making an impact all over the ice.
- Crosby’s got to be one of many happy NHLers to not see No. 37 lining up for the Bruins anymore. Patrice Bergeron with his strength and right hand shot was one of the few players who would routinely whip Crosby in the faceoff circle. No Bergeron meant Sid won 16 out of 22 faceoffs tonight.
- Carter tossing away MacAvoy’s stick after the whistle and then facewashing him might be a top 10 funny moment of the season. Big Jeff has his swagger back. Kinda had some 2007 or 2008 Gary Roberts “I’m a surly old man and Idgaf” vibes going there.
- Letang was very good with the puck, racking up three more assists. Letang defending and having to deal with Marchand? Not so good. Lots of players have issues dealing with the NHL’s version of Dennis the Menace but it was particularly rough for Letang tonight.
Thrilling win, Boston was 11-2-3 at home entering tonight, on a four-game winning streak, had a lot going for them. The Pens usually fare horribly on the road in Boston and didn’t make it easy but still held on to pick up the victory.