By Jon Fucile
Saturday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins had trap game written all over it. The Penguins are not a bad team, certainly not a bottom feeder, the type of team generally associated with a trap game.
However, the Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Chris Kunitz…. the list goes on. The Bruins were without Patrice Bergeron and Steven Kampfer. The Bruins had been rolling prior to facing off against Pittsburgh, winning seven in a row prior to Saturday. This was exactly the type of game one might expect the Bruins to look past.
For the first thirty minutes of the game Boston played this game like it was a playoff game. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Pittsburgh played the entire sixty minutes like it was a playoff game and that was the difference between victory and defeat as the Bruins certainly got caught watching.
“We were second to the puck if anything. At the same time you couldn’t establish a physical game because you never got there on time,” said head coach Claude Julien. “So they were on the puck and we were doing a lot of watching, I thought in the second period and they just took the game away from us at that point.”
Tim Thomas and Marc-Andre Fleury put on a goalie clinic, seemingly trying to outduel each other with every save. The Bruins finally broke Fleury on a great play and a better Zdeno Chara shot about seven minutes into the second. Shortly after, the Bruins fell asleep and by the time they woke up Pittsburgh was ahead 2-1 and the Bruins never had an answer.
“The first half of the first period I thought we started off well and then the second half of the first we just slipped. And same thing in the second period, I thought our third period we battled a lot better,” said Julien.
For much of the first half of the game the Bruins were asserting their physical presence, out hitting the Penguins by a large margin and dishing out at least one huge hit almost every shift. Then inexplicably the hit train pulled into the station and never left again and the Penguins began taking target practice on Tim Thomas as his teammates sat by and watched.
When the Bruins were playing their game they were out play and out working Pittsburgh and if not for some brilliant work by Fleury the Bruins may have been up by a couple of goals heading into the second. When the Bruins stopped playing their game, however, and let Pittsburgh settle in they learned quickly that even without their superstars the Penguins are still a formidable opponent.
“I don’t think we played our best game. I am positive if we played our game then we would win. We gave them too many shots in the first two periods. That can’t happen,” said David Krejci. “We tied the game and played pretty hard. We had a bad break and they got a lucky one in over time.”
Boston even gave fans a glimmer of hope late in the third period. For the third time this season, the Bruins found a way to tie the game late as Pittsburgh undoubtedly began to have flashbacks. With Thomas on the bench Tomas Kaberle came up huge with a block when Matt Cooke shot at the empty net and the Bruins headed towards the Pittsburgh zone.
Milan Lucic dug out the puck behind the Pittsburgh net and made a pretty pass to the slot where an eager David Krejci was ready. Krejci fired and soon after the red light was on and with less than a minute left in the game the Bruins were showing some life and the game was tied.
“There were a lot of things that happened. All I know is that Rex [Mark Recchi] was the extra shooter and did a good job going to the goal. They went hard after the puck. We tried to get a quick shot. I tried to pick the corner and it worked,” Krejci said.
Boston’s first shift in overnight looked much like the Bruins team that came out ready in the first period. Fleury was forced to make a quick save and the Bruins looked like a team feeding off the energy of that late game tying goal. However, Boston’s late game heroics and penchant for comebacks against the Penguins this season apparently wore thing on Pittsburgh.
Rookie Dustin Jeffrey skated in on Tim Thomas, make a few quick moves and the game was over. Based on their sixty minute regulation play, Boston was lucky to escape with a point.
“Pittsburgh definitely came ready to play. They outskated us. They didn’t look like they played back-toback games. They were playing playoff style of hockey,” said Tim Thomas. “They were getting the puck in deep, forechecking, and getting the puck in our zone. That is why we had so much trouble with them. We were fortunate to get the one point.”
The loss was certainly disappointed by the Bruins are [7-2-1] in their last ten games and have pulled within two points of a slumping Flyers team for first place in the Eastern Conference. In the course of an 82 game season, losses like this are bound to happen and all the Bruins can do now is look ahead to Tuesday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
“We just have to get ready to play another tough game against another team who is playing very well and winning a lot of games. Pittsburgh hadn’t been winning but they had been playing pretty good team hockey from what I heard about them. Montreal seems to be hot right now. We just have to be ready to play. You can’t win them all,” Thomas said.