BOSTON — Against a team like the Penguins, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask said he was limiting his celebration time after Boston’s 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 3. “Five minutes,” he said. “Then we start again, because we know we haven’t done anything.”
Actually, the Bruins have done more than anyone could have expected. In three games, they have shown they can win by outplaying the powerful Penguins, or, as they did on Wednesday night, being outplayed by them. Rask took Pittsburgh’s best shot in Game 3, stopping 53 of the 54 pucks they put on him. “They came hard, no question,” he said. “They were desperate. We didn’t expect anything less.”
The winning formula had a familiar recipe, with Brad Marchand feeding Patrice Bergeron at the goalmouth for another game-winner. This time, it was the ageless Jaromir Jagr (OK, he’s 41) who started the play by knocking Evgeni Malkin down along the boards and starting Marchand up the ice. It was Jagr’s 27th minute of play on his 35th shift. “Jags is doing whatever it takes to win,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. As for Marchand and Bergeron: “That’s what happens when you’ve been together three years,” Julien said. “Marchy could have given it to him sooner, but he waited for him to get to the net.”
And so the Bruins have handed the Penguins their first three-game losing streak of the season, one that has them on the brink of elimination and hoping for some of the magic that the Philadelphia Flyers conjured in 2010 when they rose from an 0-3 hole to eliminate Boston in the Eastern semifinals.
Here are some more thoughts and observations from Game 3:
• For the third straight game, Penguins stars Malkin and Sidney Crosby were kept off the scoresheet. “They are great players,” said Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. “It takes five guys to shut them down, plus great goaltending plus some luck.” Malkin unloaded 10 shots, Pens defenseman Kris Letang took eight, Crosby three. All were left with nothing to show for their efforts. There have been 16 instances when neither Crosby nor Malkin has registered a point in a playoff game that they played in together, and the Penguins have lost 14 of them.
• Unlike Game 2, the Penguins had the run of play for most of regulation time. “We made some adjustments,” said Pens coach Dan Bylsma, “but it was a hard-fought game all over the ice. We threw a lot at them, 50-plus shots. We played exactly the way we wanted to play. We just couldn’t get that second goal.”
• The Bruins scored on the first and last shots of the game. At 1:42 of the first period, Malkin, Letang and Matt Niskanen all collapsed to the front of their net, enabling David Krejci, the playoffs’ leading scorer, to circle from behind it into the lower left slot before Niskanen finally moved to offer token resistance. By then, Krejci had enough of an angle to throw a shot at Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun. The puck deflected off Niskanen and slid behind the goaltender.
• In a recurring theme, the Penguins put their skill to work — but to no avail — with four minutes left in the second period. Malkin deftly took the puck off Dennis Seidenberg’s stick before the blueliner realized he had lost it. Malkin then skated in alone on Rask, but couldn’t convert the breakaway. “I don’t give goal-scoring tips to many guys,” Bylsma said, “but again, that’s the way we need to play. That’s the way we can play and we pushed it and pushed it hard.” In particular, the Penguins had a much better breakout scheme in place for getting into Boston’s zone. In the first two games, Boston’s soft forecheck created clutter in center ice, making the Penguins play more minutes in they neutral zone than they wanted to.
• Yes, the ice has been bad, but not bad enough to explain the absurd ineffectiveness of the two teams’ power plays that have such capable offensive threats. The Bruins were 0-for-5 in the game. The Penguins, who came in with postseason’s top man-advantage success rate (28.2 percent) are now 0-for-12 in the series after flunking on six, including three in the second period (when Chris Kunits beat Rask from near the goalmouth at even strength), one in the first OT, and one in the second. “You better score on the power play when you get that many chances,” said Letang. “We were not good enough.”
• The Pens were on the power play in the second period when the Bruins lost the services of Gregory Campbell. The sturdy fourth-line forward was hurt when he blocked a slap shot by Evgeni Malkin and was down for several seconds before struggling to his feet. He stayed on the ice, valiantly attempting to stick with the penalty kill while obviously favoring his leg. (He did not return after he finally got to the bench and reportedly has a broken leg that will keep him out for the rest of the playoffs.) With Campbell incapacitated, the Penguins had what was in essence a five-on-three man advantage, but still could not beat Rask for the go-ahead goal. The Bruins, meanwhile, took inspiration from their teammate’s gritty effort. “He sacrificed his body and it was a great thing,” Rask said. “It’s a bad thing he got hurt. He blocks a lot of shots and he took one for the team there, and we really wanted to win this for him.”
• Two minutes into the third period, the Penguins continued to press. Shortly after Rask made a kick save with his left pad, Kunitz fired a shot near the net. Crosby had Rask out of position, but bounced a backhand rebound off the post. The Penguins captain has now gone three straight games without a point for the first time since November 2009. And Pittsburgh, which came into the series averaging 4.27 goals per game, have scored a not-so-grand total of two vs. Boston.
• The Bruins regained some zip after the third period and had the best chances in the first extra session, including when Vokoun stopped Horton on a breakaway at the 2:30 mark. Horton later hit the post in the second overtime before Jagr, Marchand and Bergeron connected for the winner.
• Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun, the subject of much pregame debate about who should start Game 3, made 38 saves, but with so little offensive support, he had no margin for error. “He played really, really well, really solid, and I think there were a number of four or five really good chances in particular there in the first overtime where he made some great saves, played really solid for us,” Bylsma said. “Again, we threw 50-plus shots, and unfortunately they get one off a skate bounce early on, and the last one in the game.”
• Some assorted notes: With his assist on the winning goal, Jagr tied Paul Coffey for fifth place on the all-time playoff points list with 196 … The Penguins had won their previous six playoff games in Boston, although they all took place at the creaky old Boston Garden … Chris Kelly (64.3) and Patrice Bergeron (63.6) led all regular centers in face-off percentage during the playoffs coming into the game, yet Bergeron had his worst night in the dot all spring. Facing mostly Crosby, he lost 22 of his 35 draws.