Bruins 7 – Penguins 4
Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh
If Wednesday night wasn’t rock bottom for the Pens, then their season may be in jeopardy. An epic third period collapse by Pittsburgh resulted in five unanswered goals for the Bruins, and turned a two-goal lead for the home team into a gruesome 7-4 loss. Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara scored 15 seconds apart to pull Boston even in the third. The Penguins lost all control after that, surrendering three more goals in a disastrous and baffling 20 minutes of hockey. Though the Pens peppered Tim Thomas with 46 shots, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby had multiple points and the team as a whole looked almost perfect through 40 minutes, Pittsburgh seemed to forget that a game is over after 60 minutes of play, and let a crucial two points slip away.
What made the outcome of the game so disappointing for the Penguins was how well it started. An incredible shift by Evgeni Malkin’s line just 1:05 into the first resulted in Aaron Asham’s first goal of the season and put the Pens up early. Malkin and Cooke assisted on the play, although the second assist was originally credited to Paul Martin.
The Penguins had a great chance to extend their lead when Pascal Dupuis fired a close-range shot at Tim Thomas from the right circle after taking a quick pass from Sidney Crosby. The Bruins reacted with their own scoring chance though, which resulted in Kris Letang taking a hooking minor. Pens goalie Brent Johnson managed to stop the first shot by Mark Recchi just outside his left post, but the rebound and second shot eluded him. Recchi’s power play goal was the former Penguin’s first of the season.
The Pens seemed unfazed after losing their lead, annihilating the B’s in shots. But Aaron Asham’s tripping penalty gave the Bruins jump and momentum, especially Brad Marchand, who took advantage of a turnover to score an unassisted goal just after Asham’s penalty expired. Before the Consol Energy Center’s P.A. system even announced Marchand’s goal, Brooks Orpik evened the scored with his first of the season. The first period ended with four goals, two fights and 32 shots.
The Penguins and Bruins didn’t cool off any early in the second, as Asham and Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves for the third fight in less than 30 minutes. Both teams played well to begin the period, but the Pens maintained their edge in shots and pulled ahead when Chris Kunitz maneuvered around McQuaid to jam Kris Letang’s rebound past a thoroughly screened Thomas. Then, after waiting nearly two periods for their first power play of the game, the Pens didn’t squander the opportunity. Sidney Crosby’s intended cross-crease pass to Evgeni Malkin 1:06 into the man-advantage deflected off of Mark Stuart’s stick and through Thomas’ five-hole. While the Bruins hit a couple of goalposts in the second, the Penguins still deserved most of the credit for how they dominated the second period.
Spirits in the Penguins’ locker room couldn’t have been anything but high during the second intermission; so what happened next is pretty confounding. For the Eastern Conference’s ninth-place team trying to get on their first real hot streak of the season, Nathan Horton’s goal that cut the Pens’ lead in half should have been a wake-up call. Desperation should have kicked in with Chara’s tying goal only seconds later. None of that happened, however, and Shawn Thornton and Blake Wheeler both scored to seal the victory for Boston. Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left in the game.
When a .500 team isn’t hungry enough to maintain a two-goal lead at home, they have bigger problems than an injured forward and a distracting goaltending issue. The Penguins’ dressing room was closed to the media directly following the game, suggesting that the players and coaches inside recognize that as well. Dan Bylsma and his team need to find answers soon.
“We didn’t execute and we didn’t have any time in their zone. Obviously it’s a 60-minute game… that’s the most important thing. Tonight we played 40 and we end up losing.”
–Kris Letang on the third period
“It was a great team effort in the second period. We were all over them. To blow a 4-2 lead is tough. To give up five goals in the third period is really tough. We can’t dwell on it too long.”
–Brent Johnson on giving up the lead
Goals: Asham (1), Orpik (1), Kunitz (4) and Crosby (10) all scored for Pittsburgh. Recchi (1), Marchand (2), Horton (7), Chara (3), Thornton (3), Wheeler (2) and Lucic (6) scored for Boston.
Assists: Malkin, Crosby and Letang all assisted twice for the Penguins, while Matt Cooke and Alex Goligoski each had one assist. Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi both had two assists while Tyler Seguin, Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Hunwick, Jordan Caron, Gregory Campbell, Adam McQuaid, Michael Ryder and Nathon Horton all had one.
IN THE NET
Tim Thomas made 42 saves for Boston, including 16 in the first period. Brent Johnson turned aside 26 of 32 shots.
The Penguins went 1-2 on the power play while Boston scored on 1 of 3 man-advantages.
The Pens face Tampa at home on Friday.