Boston, MA — Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves after giving up a goal on the game’s first shot and two first period assists from Karson Kuhlman, in his first game back since October, sparked the Boston Bruins to a 4-1 win over Eastern Conference rival Pittsburgh in front of 17,850 at TD Garden. The visiting Pittsburgh Penguins came into the game having won four straight, while Boston was winless in their last two.
Just twenty-four seconds into the game Sidney Crosby reminded everyone that it’s his league and everyone else is just playing in it when he blasted a slapshot past Halak’s glove-side for the early 1-0 Penguins lead. The goal was Crosby’s third in just his second game back from injury. Dominick Simon and Jack Johnson were credited with the assists. For Johnson, it was his 300th career point.
The Bruins had the game’s first power play at 1:16 when Zach Aston-Reese was whistled for Roughing. Anders Bjork had a bid rejected in front by Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry (26 saves).
Pittsburgh’s John Marino was sent off for Boarding at 3:23 putting the Bruins back on the man advantage. Boston pressure led to a Patrice Bergeron bid at the side of the Penguins net but Bergeron was unable to slide the puck past Jarry at the post.
Four on four play ensued when Boston’s Chris Wagner and Pittsburgh’s Chris Letang were hit with Roughing penalties at 6:33.
Sean Kuraly tied the game for the Bruins when he threw the puck on the Penguins net from the top of the left circle at 10:03. The puck was redirected past Jarry giving Kuraly his fourth goal of the year. Kuhlman and Charlie McAvoy had the assists.
The Bruins took the lead just minutes later when Par Lindholmtipped a Kuhlman shot past Jarry at 12:16. The goal was Lindholm’s third of the year.
Bergeron was called for Tripping at 13:19 giving Pittsburgh another power play opportunity.
The Bruins outshot the Penguins 12-10 for the first period while carrying the face-off battle 13-10.
The second period opened with Brad Marchand feeding David Pastrnak with a tip-in chance but Jarry was able to turn it away.
Wagner’s second penalty of the game, for Tripping, at 1:39 gave the visitors their third power play opportunity but again the Bruins penalty kill was solid and up to the challenge.
Halak made a nice leg save on Andrew Agozzino as he tipped a Patric Hornqvist shot/pass around 6:30.
Boston’s Bjork took a Slashing penalty at 9:47. Again the Bruins penalty kill was good. Marchand had a breakaway attempt to kick it off but he flubbed his shot as he tried to make a move on Jarry.
Pittsburgh threatened when defenseman Chad Ruhwedel found a streaking Teddy Blueger moving in on Halak, but the Blueger bid was chested down by Halak.
The chippiness that had been percolating all game turned into a Torey Krug and Hornqvist scrum at 16:05 with both getting sent to the penalty box for Roughing.
After an entertaining two minutes of four on four Krug and Hornqvist renewed their grudge immediately after exiting their respective penalty boxes. Each was assessed a Five Minute Major for Fighting at 18:11.
A Holding call on Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson at 18:41 gave the Bruins another power play. However, Pittsburgh had the momentum as the period wound down.
Brendan Tanev and Blueger had a two on one bid where Tanev kept the puck for a shot high on Halak. Then the Penguins had a two on zero chance for Aston-Reese and Bryan Rust. Halak made a save on Rust’s shot but the rebound fell to Aston-Reese. Halak made three quick saves on the Penguins forward to keep the game 2-1 Boston.
The Bruins outshot the Penguins 12-9 for the period and held a 24-19 advantage after two periods.
The Bruins made it 3-1 when Pastrnak sent a pass along the Pittsburgh blue line to a trailing Bergeron that the assistant captain snapped past Jarry at 3:19. The goal was Bergeron’s 20th of the season, the seventh straight year he has achieved the milestone.
The Penguins were hit with a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty at 11:42. Pittsburgh easily killed it off. the visitors carried play after the penalty kill.
Pittsburgh pulled Jarry at 17:32 with the fasciae-off coming in the Boston zone. The Penguins had a flurry of chances as Crosby snapped off a shot that Halak stopped but couldn’t tie up. With a scrum in front of the Bruins goal, Pittsburgh’s Alex Galchenyuk and Hornqvist each had shots on the pig pile that couldn’t get through.
Marchand sealed it with an empty-net goal at 18:46.
The game ended with each team having 30 shots on goal and Boston winning the face-off battle 31-27.
“Tonight I thought, obviously we got scored on early and that can deflate a team,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “But we stuck with it. I liked our effort.”
“I thought we stuck together physically, tried to play the body when we supposed to. Stuck up for each other when anything happened and dropped the mitts once because sometimes that’s going to happen. It was a good response.”
Cassidy credited Halak’s play for the win, especially the sequence at the end of the second period. “I thought it was a difference-maker in the game. They (Pittsburgh) could have went into the third with a tie.”
“I don’t think we were good enough,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan. “I just don’t think we had the jump that we normally have. We didn’t make as many clean plays, we didn’t control territory like we are capable, but it starts with puck battles. You have to win puck battles. We didn’t have support around the puck when you’re in the puck battles. There’s a lot of details that go in to it but we just weren’t good enough.”
“We had some quality chances that didn’t go in the net, but overall I don’t think we were good enough,” said Sullivan.
The Penguins play tomorrow night in Detroit. Puck drops at 7:30 pm EST. The Bruins are off until Sunday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins in a matinee tilt at 12:30 pm EST.