BOSTON, MA- The Pittsburgh Penguins came into TD Garden seven points ahead of the Boston Bruins and in third place in the Mass Mutual East Division. After sixty minutes of play and a resounding 4-1 win, they would exit the ice with a nine-point lead on Boston and in a three-way tie atop the division. The Penguins have now won five straight.
A lackluster first period ended with the Penguins outshooting the Bruins 7-2. Boston had the period’s only power-play at 10:59 when Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin was called for Cross-Checking.
Pittsburgh took control of the game in the second frame. Zach Aston-Reese gave the Penguins the 1-0 lead at 2:01 when he tapped in a Brendan Tanev pass past Bruins goalie Dan Vladar (19 saves). Tanev’s pass from the bottom of the left circle found its way past three Bruins defenders to Aston-Reese at the far side of the Bruins net. The goal was the eighth of the year for Aston-Reese.
At 13:12, Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson gathered a loose puck in the Pittsburgh defensive zone and raced up ice past struggling Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to beat Vladar to make it 2-0 visitors. The goal was Matheson’s third of the year. Anthony Angello and Cody Cici assisted it.
Brad Marchand cut the Bruins deficit to one at 11:14 of the third period. Marchand buried a Patrice Bergeron pass into the top of the twine to make it 2-1. It was the only blemish on Casey DeSmith‘s night between the pipes for Pittsburgh.
The fourth-year pro earned his ninth win of the season to improve to 9-3 while stopping 30 of 31 Bruins shots.
Pittsburgh wasted little time in padding their lead back up to two goals. Evan Rodrigues and Jason Zucker took advantage of Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy falling outside the Bruins zone for a two-on-one opportunity. Rodrigues drew Matt Grzelcyk to him before dishing to Zucker for the goal at 13:07. The goal was Zucker’s fifth of the year.
Jake Guentzel added the empty-net goal at 17:51 to seal the deal on the two points for Pittsburgh.
“I trust this group to bounce back,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “They’re very resilient. We’ve proven that over the years. We don’t really go into these long stretches of games… where we don’t respect the process.”
Cassidy was critical of his younger players and the way they have struggled recently.
“I get frustrated with the younger guys that make the same mistakes. Or can’t get their shot through from the point. It’s frustrating when teams collapse against you, and you get a low to high; you look like you got some action, and you get a shot blocked, and back they come, and you’re in the penalty box. You lose momentum. That’s the frustration. That’s just a learning curve for some of them. Some of them will learn it and be better off for it. Some won’t, and they won’t be here. That’s not unique to our team.”
The two teams square off again on Saturday at 1:00 pm.