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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Game Recap: Bruins Pull Away Late 5-1

It was a fast paced, back and forth game between the Penguins and the Bruins, one that normally favors the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the key injuries among the Pens' forwards, as well as a stellar effort from Tuukka Rask, was enough to doom the Pens offense, and they went on to lose to the Bruins by a score of 5-1. Daniel Pastrnak was a force early for the Bruins with 2 goals, including one on the penalty shot, and Boston was able to put the game away late with 3 goals in 4:53 in the last 10 minutes. Tom Kuhnhackl scored the lone goal for the Pens, who maintain their tenuous grip on the final wild card spot.

It was a fast paced 1st period that saw multiple scoring chances at both ends of the ice. Sidney Crosby took the puck off the opening faceoff and forced Rask to make a save seconds into the game, and it set the tone for the 1st period. The Penguins nearly got on the board with a great chance minutes into the game. Kris Letang lobbed a pass from the right boards to the left and through the neutral zone that hit Karl Hagelin on the rush, nearly leading to a Phil Kessel one-time goal. Midway through the first, Boston began turning momentum the other way. Patrice Bergeron led a rush that nearly saw Brett Connolly find the back of the Pittsburgh net, and seconds later Brad Marchand picked off a Marc-Andre Fleury pass behind the net, but fortunately for the Pens no other Bruin was in the zone to take his centering pass with the net wide open.

But it was 19-year-old Daniel Pastrnak who had some of the biggest chances of the 1st. With just over 7 minutes left in the period, Fleury again misplayed a puck behind and turned it over to a streaking Pastrnak coming out of the corner. Fleury managed to dive in front of Pastrnak's backhand shot to prevent the goal then managed to get over to turn away Pastrnak again after the young Czech corralled the rebound in front. But Pastrnak would get the last laugh. After being sprung on a breakaway, Pastrnak was unable to get a shot off as Derrick Pouliot slashed his leg from behind. It was enough to draw a penalty shot, and Pastrnak slid the puck 5 hole on Fleury to open the scoring.

Despite the wide open nature of the 1st period, the only goal was scored on a penalty shot. Early in the period, Scott Wilson and Landon Ferraro dropped the gloves off a neutral zone faceoff for no apparent reason. Moments later, it was David Pastrnak again making a difference. Patrnak picked off a lazy pass from Olli Maatta behind the goal line, and Pastrnak was able to walk in on Fleury unimpeded and wrapped the puck around the netminder and into the goal. The Bruins had the momentum and were in a position to be able to put the game away, but less than a minute later Tuukka Rask left a rebound out in front of the net, and the puck hit off Tom Kuhnhackls' skates as he tried to stop and went in. The play would be reviewed, but the situation room quickly determined there was no kicking motion and the play stood. Seconds later the Pens almost tied the game after Kevin Porter got in behind defense, but he wasn't able to finish.

The Penguins had several great chances that they weren't able to get past Rask when Ferraro was called for a hooking penalty against Letang. But it was a Pens PP that has been ice cold that took the ice, and the they weren't able to snap their 0-15 scoreless streak with the man advantage and didn't look particularly threatening in the process. In fact, the Bruins had the best chance on the Pens' power play when Marchand led a 2-on-1 the other way and rang a shot off the crossbar.

But despite the chances, the Penguins couldn't get the equalizing goal, and midway through the 3rd period the Bruins extended the lead back to 2. Ryan Spooner managed to turn a 2-on-2 into a 2-on-1 when he lost Kris Letang after cutting across the ice at the top of the Pens zone. He found an open Jimmy Hayes on a centering pass across the crease, and Hayes redirected the puck behind Fleury to make the score 3-1 Boston. It was a goal that made a comeback seem unlikely in its own right, but Olli Maatta was unable to keep the puck in the Boston zone and Ferraro was sprung for a breakaway, beating Fleury on a wrist shot that effectively ended the game. Brad Marchand would add his 31st goal of the season seconds later, and the rout was on.

The Penguins deserved a better fate than the one they received, as they managed a score-adjusted 61.3 CF% to go with a big advantage in scoring chances (63.7 SCF%) and high danger chances (58.6 HSCF%). However, the Bruins were able to convert on their opportunites, several of them off the rush, and the Penguins were not. The Pens have clearly missed having Evgeni Malkin's offensive ability in the lineup as well as bottom 6 options Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr, and Beau Bennett. They'll likely get both Malkin and Bonino back Saturday against the Jets. Luckily for the Pittsburgh offense, Winnipeg is one of the worst teams in the league and should help get the Pens back on track.

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