Pens finally beat Rask
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh spent four games last June futilely flailing away at Tuukka Rask as the Boston goalie shoved the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference finals one remarkable save at a time.
Any real chance at payback won’t come until the playoffs. Still, Pittsburgh knows its taut 3-2 win over the Bruins on Wednesday night is a pretty good place to start laying the groundwork.
“They are a very good defensive team,” Penguins forward Brandon Sutter said. “To get chances and capitalize on them is huge. That’s a big building block for us.”
Sutter and Jussi Jokinen scored 6:58 apart in the third period and the Penguins held on. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 shots for Pittsburgh, including a sliding save on David Krejci just before the final horn. Chris Kunitz picked up his sixth goal of the season for the Penguins while Sidney Crosby’s assist pushed his points total to an NHL-high 21.
“We played the right way and we were the better team tonight,” Jokinen said. “It kind of felt like a playoff game, a little bit those same matchups like last spring. Lots of hitting, lots of battles.”
Battles the Penguins won. Then again, that’s what happens this time of year. Pittsburgh is 9-1 in its last 10 regular-season games against Boston.
Patrice Bergeron and Jarome Iginla scored for the Bruins. Rask finished with 28 saves, but couldn’t stop Boston from dropping a road game for the first time this season.
“We didn’t play to our identity,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We didn’t play a heavy game for two periods tonight. We had to play three periods like we did in the third and that wasn’t the case.”
The meeting between the teams was the first since Boston’s emphatic four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference finals, when the Bruins suffocated the NHL’s highest scoring team into submission. The Penguins scored only twice in nearly 14 periods of hockey and never led at any point, undone by Boston’s defense and a near flawless performance by Rask, who stopped 134 of 136 shots in the series.
Nearly five months later, little has changed.
“I think the intensity and the atmosphere, not quite sure it was April and May and June, but it was certainly a good night for a Wednesday night rivalry game in October,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Kunitz gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead in the second period when he collected a shot from teammate Kris Letang with his chest then backhanded by Rask with his back to the net. The power-play goal was the fifth given up by the Bruins in their last seven penalty kills.