NHL Nick's Net

DeSmith, Pens, down B’s, 4-1

Casey DeSmith backstopped the Pittsburgh Penguins to a, 4-1, victory over the Boston Bruins Thursday night at TD Garden in what was Pittsburgh’s first win in Boston since Nov. 24, 2014.

DeSmith (9-3-0, 1.84 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in 14 games played) made 30 saves on 31 shots against in the win for the Penguins.

Bruins goaltender, Dan Vladar (2-1-0, 2.05 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in three games played) turned aside 19 out of 22 shots faced in the loss.

Pittsburgh improved to 24-11-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Boston dropped to 18-10-5 (41 points) on the season and remained in 4th place in the division.

The Bruins also fell to 3-2-0 against the Pens this season.

Boston was without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Thursday, while Sean Kuraly was removed from league protocol on Wednesday and took part in an optional morning skate on Thursday.

Kase also took part in the optional morning skate, while DeBrusk skated on his own at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday morning for the first time since entering COVID protocol on March 19th.

B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, left his lines intact from Tuesday night’s, 5-4, shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils, rendering Kuraly as a healthy scratch, along with Chris Wagner, Jack Studnicka, Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi.

Moore, Kase, Rask, DeBrusk and Miller remained out due to injury, while Callum Booth was part of Boston’s taxi squad.

Greg McKegg, meanwhile, was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) on Wednesday with Jeremy Swayman, who was briefly called up to the taxi squad and reassigned.

Brian Dumoulin delivered a cross check to David Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with the first power play of the night at 10:59 of the first period.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage and neither team was penalized further, nor scored a goal in the opening frame.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led in shots on goal, 7-2, while the scoreboard was even at, 0-0.

The B’s led in blocked shots (8-6), hits (12-6) and faceoff win percentage (55-45), while the Pens led in takeaways (3-1) and giveaways (3-1) after 20 minutes of play.

Pittsburgh had yet to see any action on the power play, while Boston was 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

The Bruins tweeted prior to puck drop on the second period that defender, Brandon Carlo, would not return to Thursday night’s game with an upper body injury.

Carlo had missed 10 games this season with an upper body injury that he sustained on March 5th against the Washington Capitals prior to returning to the lineup in Tuesday night’s win against New Jersey.

Jeremy Lauzon was also not on the bench to start the middle period, but returned shortly after the second period was underway after being cut by a skate late in the opening frame.

Meanwhile, early in the period, Zach Aston-Reese (8) capitalized on a rush– redirecting a pass from Brandon Tanev past Vladar low on the glove side.

Tanev (9) and Frederick Gaudreau (3) tallied the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 2:01 of the second period.

Midway through the period, Mike Matheson (3) went post-to-post on a wraparound break-in and gave Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.

Anthony Angello (2) and Cody Ceci (6) had the assists on Matheson’s goal and the Pens led, 2-0, at 13:12.

Through 40 minutes of action on Thursday night, Pittsburgh was in command, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 17-15, in shots on goal, despite Boston leading, 13-10, in shots in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (14-9), hits (27-13) and faceoff win% (55-45), while the Penguins led in takeaways (10-3) and giveaways (5-3).

Boston was still 0/1 on the power play, while Pittsburgh awaited their first taste of the skater advantage in the action.

The Penguins went on the power play when Lauzon caught Bryan Rust without the puck and was assessed an interference minor 31 seconds into the third period.

Though Brad Marchand and Kris Letang exchanged pleasantries about half-a-minute later, Marchand’s ensuing roughing infraction was matched by Letang’s holding minor, thereby leaving the Pens on the 5-on-4 advantage at 1:03 of the final frame.

Pittsburgh did not score on the skater advantage.

Matt Grzelcyk went down the tunnel after catching an errant puck off the helmet with 13:24 remaining in the action.

Moments later, Marchand (14) scored a one-timer off of a pass that deflected off of Ceci’s stick from Patrice Bergeron through the slot.

Bergeron (18) and Jakub Zboril (7) had the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins trailed, 2-1, at 11:14 of the third period.

Less than two minutes later– in a span of 1:53, to be exact– Jason Zucker (5) put the Penguins ahead by two-goals once again after Pastrnak’s self-pass in traffic in the neutral zone was botched and led to a turnover, yielding a one-timer for Zucker while Grzelcyk (back from his trip down the tunnel) pressured Evan Rodrigues and Vladar was caught a little too far out of the crease in effort to cut down on Rodrigues’ shooting angle.

Instead, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, on Zucker’s goal with assists from Rodrigues (4) and Marcus Pettersson (3) at 13:07.

With 3:09 remaining in the game, Cassidy pulled Vladar for an extra attacker.

It wasn’t long before Jake Guentzel (15) used geometry to his advantage and angled the puck off of the boards and into the open twine from about the center red line.

Letang (22) and Sidney Crosby (26) had the assists on Guentzel’s empty net goal and the Penguins led, 4-1, at 17:51/

Mark Jankowski was penalized for holding at 18:44, yielding one final power play to Boston, but despite pulling their netminder once again with 1:16 remaining in the game, the Bruins fell flat.

At the final horn, Pittsburgh had won, 4-1, despite trailing Boston in the final shot total, 31-23, including a, 16-6, advantage for the B’s in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the night leading in blocked shots (15-12), hits (35-29) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the Penguins led in giveaways (7-5).

Pittsburgh finished 0/1 and Boston finished 0/2 on the power play on Thursday.

The Bruins dropped to 5-4-1 (2-3-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 4-6-1 (3-4-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh improved to 6-2-0 (3-0-0 on the road) when tied after one period and 14-1-0 (4-0-0 on the road) when leading after the two periods this season.

Boston fell to 6-7-2 (3-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Pens improved to 13-3-1 (5-2-0 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal in 2020-21.

The Bruins take on the Penguins once again on Saturday before wrapping up their seven-game homestand (2-2-1) next Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for three games.

By Nick Lanciani

I have a degree in communication and yet I cannot find the words for this bio. Anyway, I write stuff on Down the Frozen River, make/appear on podcasts, used to write stuff for Couch Guy Sports and apply to jobs for a living when I'm not painting something cool to distract myself from my unemployment.