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Marchand’s hat trick lifts Bruins over Penguins, 7-5

Brad Marchand had a hat trick to go along with his four-point afternoon in the Boston Bruins’, 7-5, victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden on Saturday.

David Pastrnak had a pair of goals and David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron set career milestones in the process, while Jaroslav Halak (9-5-3, 2.44 goals-against average, .910 save percentage in 17 games played) made 23 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Boston.

Pittsburgh netminder, Casey DeSmith (9-4-0, 2.13 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 15 games played), stopped 21 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 19-10-5 (43 points) on the season and remain in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins dropped to 24-12-2 (50 points) overall and remained in command of 3rd place in the same division.

The B’s improved to 4-2-0 against the Pens this season with the win.

The Bruins were without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (lower body), Tuukka Rask (upper body), John Moore (hip), Brandon Carlo (upper body) and Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

As a result, head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made several changes to his lineup from Thursday night’s, 4-1, loss against Pittsburgh.

Cassidy swapped his first and second line right wings, placing Craig Smith alongside Marchand and Bergeron, while uniting Pastrnak with Nick Ritchie and Krejci.

Sean Kuraly was back in the lineup for the first time since being placed in COVID protocol on March 18th. He was taken off the league’s COVID protocol list prior to Thursday night’s loss, but did not suit up against the Penguins until Saturday.

Kuraly centered the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle at right wing.

Jack Studnicka, meanwhile, centered the fourth line with Trent Frederic to his left and Zach Senyshyn to his right.

On defense, Cassidy paired former Boston University teammates, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing.

Jakub Zboril suited up alongside Steven Kampfer and Jarred Tinordi was back in the lineup with Connor Clifton after Tinordi was as a healthy scratch since March 25th.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, taxi squad members and injured players on Saturday afternoon included Chris Wagner, Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, DeBrusk, Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman, Miller and Callum Booth.

Mike Matheson sent a shot towards the goal off of an attacking zone faceoff that tipped off of Coyle’s stick, then Mark Jankowski’s, over Halak’s shoulder, off the crossbar and under into the back of the twine.

As Jankowski (3) was the last to touch the rubber biscuit, the goal was his and the Penguins led, 1-0, at 3:24 of the first period.

Matheson (6) had the only assist on the goal.

Shortly after the midpoint in the opening frame until late in the first period, the two clubs engaged in a span of 8:05 of consecutive action.

Heading into the first intermission, Pittsburgh led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and, 9-6, in shots on goal.

The Pens held the advantage in giveaways (5-1), hits (13-12) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while both teams had four takeaways each.

Neither team had seen any time on the power play entering the middle frame.

Just 11 seconds into the second period, Bergeron (11) capitalized on a rebound from his usual spot in the bumper to tie the game, 1-1, on an unassisted effort.

Bergeron tied Rick Middleton for the fourth most points (898) in a Bruins uniform in franchise history as a result of his goal. In 1,123 career games, Bergeron has 363-535–898 totals– all with Boston– while Middleton recorded 402-496–898 totals in 881 games as a Bruin from 1976-88.

34 seconds later, Pastrnak (15) buried a shot from the slot after the puck bounced off of Ritchie due to an initial shot by Krejci from the point to give the B’s their first lead of the afternoon, 2-1.

Ritchie (9) and Krejci (21) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s goal 45 seconds into the second period.

As a result of his secondary assist on the goal, Krejci reached 500 career NHL assists in his 941st game (all with Boston). Pastrnak made sure the puck was delivered to the Bruins’ bench for future display purposes in the Krejci household.

The Bruins did not hold the lead for long, however, as Jake Guentzel (16) scored on a close-range one-timer as he was fed by a backhand pass from Sidney Crosby while the Penguins captain was skating behind the net in “Gretzky’s office”.

Crosby (27) and Brian Dumoulin (5) tabbed assists on Guentzel’s goal as the score was evened, 2-2, at 2:45 of the second period.

On an ensuing play in Boston’s defensive zone, McAvoy closed his hand on the puck in the crease and received an automatic delay of game minor infraction for (you guessed it) closing his hand on the puck at 4:45.

Pittsburgh’s first power play of the afternoon went right to work as Crosby setup Guentzel into the slot who then passed the puck to Jared McCann (9) for the one-timer past Halak’s blocker side as the Bruins goaltender dove from left to right in the crease.

Guentzel (21) and Crosby (28) had the assists on McCann’s power-play goal at 5:11 and the Pens grabbed a, 3-2, lead in the action.

Midway through the period, Pittsburgh and Boston swapped penalties when Sam Lafferty caught Clifton with an elbow at 9:59 and Grzelcyk tripped Cody Ceci at 10:20, resulting in 1:40 of 4-on-4 action before the Penguins had an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

Neither team scored on the special teams play.

Moments later, however, the Bruins rallied when Marchand (15) sent a catch and release shot while cutting a quick turn in front of DeSmith in the low slot– elevating the puck top-shelf in the process– to tie the game, 3-3, at 14:56.

Grzelcyk (9) and Smith (9) had the assists on Marchand’s first goal of the afternoon.

After a stoppage in play resulted in a slashing minor for Marchand against Kris Letang and a roughing infraction for Letang against Marchand at 15:10, the two clubs resumed 4-on-4 action for a pair of minutes, though that didn’t last long.

Boston went on the 4-on-3 advantage when Evan Rodrigues hooked Pastrnak at 16:53.

The Bruins then had 18 seconds on the unconventional 4-on-3 power play before yielding an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage.

While on the ensuing power play, Boston whipped the puck around the zone before Pastrnak sent it to Marchand who whizzed a shot pass through the slot to Krejci (2) for the redirection from the edge of the crease to the left of DeSmith.

The Bruins re-took the lead, 4-3, as Marchand (24) and Pastrnak (14) were credited with assists on Krejci’s power-play goal at 18:29.

Boston was not done scoring, however, as Marchand (16) received an indirect pass from McAvoy from the slot off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone that bounced from Smith to No. 63 in black and gold (or, gold and black, as it were, since the Bruins donned their Reverse Retro jerseys on Saturday), before sending another catch and release shot past DeSmith.

Smith (10) and McAvoy (18) tallied the assists on Marchand’s second goal of the afternoon and the Bruins led, 5-3, at 19:40– marking three unanswered goals for Boston to finish off the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bruins led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Penguins, 18-17, in shots on goal, despite holding an, 11-9, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Boston also led in takeaways (9-7), hits (23-17) and faceoff win% (53-47), while Pittsburgh held the advantage in blocked shots (7-2) and giveaways (10-2) through 40 minutes of action.

Both teams were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Ceci (3) opened the scoring in the third period after Boston failed to clear their own zone and Jankowski sent a pass to the wide-open Penguins defender to bring Pittsburgh to within one at 4:38.

Jankowski (4) and Lafferty (5) had the assists as the Pens trailed, 5-4.

Midway through the final frame, Ritchie made a hit at the attacking zone blue line to take possession of the puck and generate a 2-on-1 advantage for the Bruins on the break-in.

Ritchie fed Pastrnak (16) a pass across the slot for another catch and release goal– this time over DeSmith’s glove side to make it, 6-4, for Boston.

Ritchie (10) had the only assist on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game at 13:28 of the third period.

With 2:25 remaining in the action, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker.

Letang, in the meantime, had other ideas and hooked Pastrnak and cut a rut to the penalty box at 17:49.

After clearing their own zone, Pittsburgh once again pulled DeSmith for an extra skater, whereby Crosby (15) mustered a soft goal through Halak to pull the Penguins to within one goal once more at 18:45.

Guentzel (22) had the only assist on Crosby’s shorthanded goal and the Pens trailed, 6-5.

Sullivan used his timeout on the ensuing stoppage with 1:15 remaining in the action to drum up a plan.

On the resulting center-ice faceoff, Bergeron may have caught Crosby in the sternum with an inadvertent butt-end while pulling the puck back from the dot as Crosby brushed Bergeron’s visor before Bergeron made the turn.

Crosby whipped his head back and fell to the ice, perhaps embellishing (depending on which team you cheer for) what resulted in a four-minute double minor for high sticking for Bergeron, despite no evidence of an injury or blood drawn, while nobody seemed to notice Krejci’s errant stick to McCann’s face that was quite evident in the replay and review of whether or not Bergeron touched Crosby.

Regardless, Bergeron skated to the box at 18:49 and the Penguins went on the power play.

This time, however, Pittsburgh’s power play was powerless as they once again pulled DeSmith for a de facto two-skater advantage, but Marchand (17) sealed the deal on the game’s fate with an empty net goal– scoring a hat trick in the process.

Coyle (5) had the only assist on Marchand’s third goal of the afternooon– marking his first hat trick of the season and his fourth overall in his NHL career– at 18:59 and the B’s led, 7-5.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 7-5, and finished even in total shots on goal, 28-28, despite leading, 11-10, in shots on goal in the third period alone.

The Bruins wrapped up the afternoon leading in blocked shots (8-7), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (60-40), while the Penguins finished Saturday’s effort leading in giveaways (12-3).

Both teams finished 1/3 on the power play in the matinée action.

The Bruins improved to 7-7-2 (4-5-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while the Penguins fell to 13-4-1 (5-3-0 on the road) when scoring first in 2020-21.

Boston also improved to 5-6-2 (3-2-0 at home) when trailing after one and 11-0-1 (7-0-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.

Pittsburgh dropped to 12-3-1 (2-2-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 4-8-1 (2-7-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period this season.

The Bruins wrap up their seven-game homestand (3-2-1) next Monday (April 5th) against the Philadelphia Flyers before hitting the road for a three-game road trip through Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia again.

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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.

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Vladar backstops Bruins to, 2-1, win in Pittsburgh

Dan Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots against in his first career National Hockey League start as the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1, at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night.

Vladar (1-0-0, 1.00 goals-against average, .971 save percentage in one game played) stole the show early in the first period for the B’s while making a save with his paddle, while Penguins goaltender, Casey DeSmith (6-3-0, 2.22 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in 10 games played) stopped 31 out of 33 shots faced (.939 SV%) in the loss.

David Pastrnak opened the scoring for Boston, while Trent Frederic scored the game-winning goal in the third period for the Bruins after Brandon Tanev tied things up late in the opening frame.

Tanev was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for a hit in front of the Bruins bench on Boston defender, Jarred Tinordi, in the second period that forced Tinordi out of the game with an upper body injury.

Boston improved to 15-8-4 (34 points) overall and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division standings, while Pittsburgh fell to 18-10-1 (37 points), but held onto 3rd place in the division.

The Bruins also improved to 3-1-0 against the Penguins this season.

Boston was without Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body) and Zach Senyshyn (upper body) on Tuesday, while Oskar Steen made his NHL debut and Vladar earned his first career NHL start (and regular season debut).

Steen was slotted into the right wing spot on the third line in place of Anders Bjork, who joined Chris Wagner, Senyshyn, Carlo, John Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, Urho Vaakanainen, Miller, Jeremy Swayman, Jack Ahcan and Greg McKegg on the list of healthy scratches, injuries and taxi squad members.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made no other changes to his lineup from Monday night’s, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh to Tuesday night’s victory.

Pastrnak kicked things off with a boarding infraction 39 seconds into the first period, presenting the Penguins with the first power play opportunity of the night.

Less than a minute later, Pittsburgh’s power play was cut short when Evgeni Malkin cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 1:26.

The two clubs skated at 4-on-4 for about 1:13 before Boston had an abbreviated skater advantage.

While on the ensuing power play, Pastrnak (13) received a pass from Brad Marchand, deked and slipped the puck through DeSmith’s five-hole on a backhand shot to give the Bruins the, 1-0, lead.

Marchand (21) and Matt Grzelcyk (7) had the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal at 3:20 of the first period.

About ten minutes later, Pastrnak was off to the box on a phantom tripping minor after Brian Dumoulin lost an edge, cut a rut or something– the replay indicated that Pastrnak did not, in fact, actually trip the Pens defender, but alas, the B’s forward was sent to the box at 13:13.

Pittsburgh struck in the vulnerable minute after a power play as Tanev (7) tied the game, 1-1, on a rebound that he sent off of Vladar’s skate and into the twine.

Evan Rodrigues (3) and Kasperi Kapanen (13) tallied the assists on Tanev’s goal 1t 15:22.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, and shots on goal were even, 15-15.

Both teams had four blocked shots each, while the Penguins led in takeaways (6-2) as well as giveaways (4-3), while the Bruins led in hits (17-14) and faceoff win percentage (54-46).

The Pens were 0/2 and the B’s were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Patrice Bergeron was penalized for an illegal check to the head 34 seconds into the second period after catching Jake Guentzel with an inadvertent elbow up high.

Pittsburgh did not convert on the ensuing power play, which was shortened by their own doing once again after a bench minor for too many skaters on the ice was called at 1:36. Anthony Angello served the infraction.

Midway through the action, Marcus Pettersson was penalized for holding at 8:13 of the second period, but Boston wasn’t able to capitalize on the advantage.

Moments later, Tanev checked Tinordi and was dealt a five-minute major for boarding, as well as a game misconduct. The penalty was reviewed and upheld at 12:57.

The Bruins did not score on the major power play.

Through 40 minutes of action at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday, the score remained tied, 1-1, despite the Bruins leading in shots on goal through two periods, 28-24, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Penguins held the advantage in blocked shots (10-4), takeaways (12-3) and hits (28-27) after two periods, while Boston led in faceoff win% (59-41).

Both teams had six giveaways each, while the Pens were 0/3 and the B’s were 1/4 on the power play entering the final frame.

Marchand caught Guentzel with a high stick 39 seconds into the third period, but Pittsburgh did not score on the resulting power play.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins tweeted and confirmed that Tinordi (upper body) would not return to Tuesday night’s action.

Almost midway through the third period, Frederic (4) snuck into the attacking zone on a line change, called for a pass and snapped a shot over DeSmith’s glove side from the high slot to give Boston the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal.

Jakub Zboril (5) and Bergeron (15) had the assists on Frederic’s goal at 7:07 of the third period and the Bruins led, 2-1.

With about 1:45 remaining in the game, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but Pittsburgh couldn’t even the score.

At the final horn, Boston had won, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 35-33, in shots on goal, including an, 11-5, advantage for Pittsburgh in the third period alone.

The Penguins finished the night leading in blocked shots (14-8) and giveaways (10-7), while the Bruins wrapped up the affair leading in hits (46-40) and faceoff win% (58-42).

Pittsburgh went 0/4 on the power play, while Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage on Tuesday.

The Bruins snapped Pittsburgh’s six-game winning streak, while Vladar became the first Boston goaltender to win in his first start since Niklas Svedberg led the B’s to a, 3-2, overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Jan. 2, 2014.

Boston improved to 11-3-2 (5-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, while Pittsburgh fell to 10-7-1 (8-2-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season.

The Bruins also improved to 5-3-1 (3-1-0 on the road) when tied after the first period and 4-4-3 (4-3-2 on the road) when tied after two periods this season.

The Penguins dropped to 5-2-0 (3-2-0 at home) when tied after one period and 6-3-0 (4-1-0 at home) when tied after the second period this season.

For the first time since Dec. 18, 2015, the Bruins beat the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

The B’s continue their four-game road trip (1-1-0) in Buffalo for a pair of games against the Sabres on Thursday and Saturday.

Boston’s next home game on March 23rd against the New York Islanders, will be their first to feature fans at TD Garden since the pandemic began last year. TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.

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Crosby, Jarry and Pens takedown Bruins, 4-1

A late first period comeback with Sidney Crosby’s eventual game-winning goal on top of Tristan Jarry’s 42-save performance led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a, 4-1, victory over the Boston Bruins on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Jarry (12-7-1, 2.90 goals-against average, .906 save percentage in 20 games played) turned aside 42 out of 43 shots faced for a .977 save percentage in the win for Pittsburgh.

Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (6-4-2, 2.15 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 12 games played) made 22 saves on 25 shots against for an .880 save percentage in the loss.

The Bruins fell to 14-8-4 (32 points) and remained in 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Penguins improved to 18-9-1 (37 points) and in control of 3rd place in the division.

The B’s also dropped to 2-1-0 against the Pens this season.

Jake DeBrusk returned to the lineup for Boston after missing last Saturday’s, 4-0, loss to the New York Rangers due to COVID protocol in what turned out to be a false positive test.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, re-inserted DeBrusk in his usual role on the second line left wing and made a few other adjustments to his forward lines.

Craig Smith joined DeBrusk as David Krejci’s wings on the second line, while Nick Ritchie and Anders Bjork suited up on the left and right side of Charlie Coyle, respectively.

Sean Kuraly centered the fourth line with Trent Frederic at left wing and Karson Kuhlman at right wing.

On defense, Cassidy replaced Urho Vaakanainen on the third pairing with Steven Kampfer for a night alongside Jarred Tinordi.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Brandon Carlo (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body) and Zach Senyshyn (upper body) on Monday night.

Rask traveled with the team and skated with the taxi squad members, but won’t be ready for Tuesday night’s rematch with the Penguins, which means Dan Vladar or Jeremy Swayman will make their National Hockey League regular season debut in Pittsburgh.

Vladar made his postseason debut in relief of Halak in Game 3 of Boston’s 2020 Second Round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but has yet to start an NHL game in the regular season.

He has a 2-2-1 record in five games with the Providence Bruins (AHL) so far this season with a 2.01 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in that span, as well as one shutout.

Swayman, meanwhile, is in his first professional season since leaving the University of Maine (2017-20) and has a 7-0-0 record in seven games with Providence this season, as well as a 1.57 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and one shutout so far.

Jack Ahcan, Kuhlman and Oskar Steen were recalled from the P-Bruins to Boston’s taxi squad ahead of the game on Monday.

Chris Wagner, Senyshyn, Carlo, John Moore, Kase, Rask, Lauzon, Vaakanainen, Miller, Ahcan, Steen, Swayman and Greg McKegg were all out of the lineup due to being listed as a healthy scratch, injured or a taxi squad member for Boston.

Anton Blidh was sent to Providence on Sunday.

Bryan Rust slashed Brad Marchand and presented Boston with their first power play of the night at 6:17 of the first period.

Matt Grzelcyk (1) sent a wrist shot from the point past Jarry while Ritchie screened the Penguins netminder and gave the B’s a, 1-0, lead.

Marchand (20) and David Pastrnak (11) had the assists on Grzelcyk’s power-play goal at 6:47 of the opening frame.

Late in the period, Pittsburgh’s Evan Rodrigues (2) fired a wrist shot off of Halak’s glove before the puck bounced through the Boston goaltender’s five-hole, tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 16:51.

Kasperi Kapanen (12) and Evgeni Malkin (16) tallied the assists on Rodrigues’ first goal since Jan. 17th (he played in nine games between then).

Less than two minutes later, Crosby (11) sent the rubber biscuit to Jake Guentzel as the pair of Penguins forwards entered the zone prior to Guentzel giving it back to the Pens captain for a one-timer off of Halak’s pad– between the Bruins goaltender’s pad and the post– and into the twine.

Pittsburgh took their first lead of the night, 2-1, while Guentzel (15) and Brian Dumoulin (4) picked up the assists on Crosby’s goal at 18:34.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite trailing the Bruins, 20-10, in shots on goal.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), takeaways (3-2), hits (19-8) and faceoff win percentage (64-36), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (4-1) after 20 minutes.

The Penguins had yet to see any action on the skater advantage, while the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Pastrnak opened up the second period with an interference infraction 28 seconds into the middle frame. Pittsburgh did not score on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, Marcus Pettersson sent the puck over the glass and out of play, yielding an automatic delay of game minor at 6:59 of the second period.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage.

Past the midpoint in the action, Connor Clifton tripped Rodrigues and was sent to the penalty box at 10:31.

A little more than a minute later, Malkin (8) flipped a shot over Halak’s glove side from the slot to yield his 1,100th career NHL point in his 935th career game.

Crosby (17) and Kris Letang (15) had the assists on Malkin’s power-play goal and the Pens led, 3-1, at 11:40 of the second period.

Clifton cut another rut to the sin bin at 12:13 on a roughing minor after getting tangled up with Colton Sceviour after a whistle. The Penguins did not score on the resulting power play.

Through 40 minutes of action in Pittsburgh, the Pens led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins, 33-18, in shots on goal, including a, 13-8, advantage for Boston in the second period alone.

The B’s held an advantage in blocked shots (10-5), hits (30-18) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Penguins led in giveaways (6-4).

Both teams had five takeaways aside, while Pittsburgh was 1/3 and Boston was 1/2 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Early in the final frame of the game, Crosby tripped Patrice Bergeron and cut a rut to the sin bin at 2:40 of the third period, but Boston did not score on the resulting 5-on-4 advantage.

Midway through the third, Teddy Blueger hooked Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with another power play at 13:12, but the B’s were powerless on the power play once more.

Jakub Zboril tripped Crosby at 16:24, but Pittsburgh’s power play was no match for Boston’s penalty kill.

With one minute left in the game, Cassidy pulled his netminder for an extra attacker, but at 19:44, Guentzel (11) pocketed the puck in the empty twine to give the Penguins a three-goal advantage.

Rust (11) and Crosby (18) notched the assists on Guentzel’s empty net goal as Pittsburgh won, 4-1, at the final horn.

Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 43-26, including a, 10-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The Bruins also wrapped up Monday night’s action leading in blocked shots (15-11), hits (38-26) and faceoff win% (57-43), while both teams finished the action with seven giveaways aside and were 1/4 on the power play.

Pittsburgh extended their winning streak to six games, while Boston fell to 6-5-2 in their last 13 games.

The B’s also fell to 10-3-2 (4-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season, while the Pens improved to 10-6-1 (8-1-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal in 2020-21.

The Penguins also improved to 8-2-0 (6-1-0 at home) when leading after one period and 8-1-0 (6-1-0 at home) when leading after two periods this season, while the Bruins dropped to 2-5-2 (2-4-2 on the road) when trailing after the first period and 2-4-1 (1-2-1 on the road) when trailing through 40 minutes in 2020-21.

The last time Boston won in Pittsburgh was in a, 6-2, victory back on Dec. 18, 2015.

The Bruins continue their four-game road trip (0-1-0) with another game against the Penguins on Tuesday before venturing north to take on the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday and Saturday.

Boston’s next home game on March 23rd against the New York Islanders will be their first to feature fans at TD Garden since the pandemic began last year.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Marchand’s five-point night leads Bruins to, 6-4, win over Penguins

A wild night at TD Garden led to ten goals combined as Brad Marchand scored the game-winner late in the third period on a wacky play before Patrice Bergeron added an empty net goal to lift the Boston Bruins over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 6-4, on Monday.

Jaroslav Halak (4-1-1 record, 2.83 goals against average, .917 save percentage in six games played) made 40 saves on 44 shots faced (.909 SV%) in the win for Boston.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh starter, Matt Murray (7-3-1, 2.35 GAA, .917 SV% in 12 games played), stopped eight shots on 11 shots against for a .727 SV% before being replaced by Tristan Jarry (1-3-0, 2.25 GAA, .929 SV% in four games played), who made 12 saves on 14 shots for an .857 SV% in 34:37.

The Bruins improved to 11-1-2 (24 points) on the season and remained in 1st place in the Atlantic Division, while the Penguins fell to 8-6-1 (17 points), but didn’t move from 4th place in the Metropolitan Division.

Marchand had 2-3–5 totals for his 2nd five-point night of the season and the 5th five-point night of his career.

According to the NHL’s PR department, the 2019-20 season marks the third consecutive season in which the Bruins (8-0-2 in their last 10 games) have posted at least one point streak of 10 or more games. The longest such run in franchise history spanned five seasons from 1975-76 to 1979-80.

Kevan Miller (knee) was still in a red no-contact sweater at practice and John Moore (shoulder) was still out of the lineup on Monday. Both players have yet to debut this season and have missed the first 14 games.

Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Joakim Nordstrom (elbow) and Par Lindholm (upper body) all remained out of the lineup for Boston due to their various injuries, but Brett Ritchie returned after missing Saturday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators due to an infection.

David Backes (upper body), however, joined the long list of injuries for the Bruins and is doubtful for Monday and Tuesday’s action, but feeling better since being injured against Ottawa.

As a result of all the injuries and with the penalty kill in mind, according to head coach, Bruce Cassidy, Peter Cehlarik was assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and Cameron Hughes was recalled from Providence on Monday.

Hughes made his NHL debut against the Penguins Monday night on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly at center and Chris Wagner back on the right side.

He has two goals and four assists (six points) in 13 games with Providence this season and tallied 13-15–28 totals in 52 games with the Baby Bruins last season.

Cassidy placed Ritchie back on the third line right wing with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle and replaced Steven Kampfer with Connor Clifton on the third defensive pairing as planned after Clifton served as a healthy scratch against the Senators to keep Kampfer fresh.

Kampfer was the only healthy scratch for the B’s against Pittsburgh.

The action between the Bruins and Penguins on Monday night kicked off with a tremendous pace that had no stoppages for the opening 4:44 span of non-stop action.

Less than a minute later, Jake DeBrusk (3) intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, skated around a Pittsburgh defender and fired shot over Murray’s blocker on the short side to give Boston the game’s first lead, 1-0.

DeBrusk’s individual effort was unassisted at 5:24 of the first period.

Almost five minutes later, David Krejci was guilty of tripping Pens forward, Jared McCann, at 9:04 and was sent to the penalty box, yielding the first power play of the night to Pittsburgh.

The B’s killed off Krejci’s minor with ease as Halak robbed Sidney Crosby with the glove while the Penguins were on the skater advantage.

Midway through the first period, Zdeno Chara let go of a shot that found its way to David Pastrnak for a deflection.

The loose puck bounced wildly in the low slot, whereby Marchand (9) batted it out of the air and over Murray’s glove from point blank to give Boston a two-goal lead.

Pastrnak (15) and Chara (3) tallied the assists on Marchand’s goal and the Bruins led, 2-0, at 13:05.

With the goal, Marchand extended his current point streak to 13 games– becoming just the 3rd Bruin in the last 25 years to record a point streak of at least 13 games in franchise history, joining Phil Kessel and Adam Oates.

Meanwhile, Pastrnak collected his 28th point in 14 games this season– tying his career-high 12-game point streak in the process, set from Nov. 22- Dec. 18, 2017– becoming just the first player to record 28 points in 14 games to begin a season since Peter Forsberg and Daniel Alfredsson did so with the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators, respectively, in the 2005-06 season.

Late in the period, Kris Letang slashed Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty that resulted in a Bruins power play extending into the second period, since the B’s couldn’t capitalize on their chances before the horn signaled the end of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 10-9, in shots on goal.

Pittsburgh held the advantage in every other statistical category, however, leading in blocked shots (3-2), takeaways (2-1), giveaways (6-1), hits (11-7) and faceoff win percentage (62-39).

Both teams were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.

A couple of minutes into the middle frame, Evgeni Malkin made a pass behind his back to Alex Galchenyuk to send the Penguins forward in all alone on a breakaway against Halak, but the Bruins netminder stopped Galchenyuk’s attempt with a leg pad.

Moments later, Pastrnak (14) sent a wrist shot over Murray’s blocker for a top-shelf goal and his 29th point of the season.

Marchand (16) and Brandon Carlo (4) collected the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as Boston extended their lead to three unanswered goals at 4:22 of the second period.

With the score reading, 3-0, for the Bruins, Penguins head coach, Mike Sullivan, replaced Murray with Jarry and effectively made his own timeout without using his timeout.

The Pens reset and began a four-unanswered goal charge right back into the game– taking the lead in the process.

First, Justin Schultz sent a shot intentionally wide of the net to force a carom over to McCann in the corner, who then tossed a pass through the low slot for Dominik Kahun (2) to send the puck past Halak with a one-timer as the Boston goaltender was forced to push side-to-side in the crease.

Pittsburgh was on the board, 3-1, while McCann (2) and Schultz (6) nabbed the assists at 5:35 of the second period.

Roughly four minutes later, a poor line change for the Bruins exposed their defense to a stretch pass from Letang up ice to Nick Bjugstad (1) for the breakaway and snap shot goal, bringing the Penguins to within one.

Letang (8) and Brian Dumoulin (4) notched the assists on Bjugstad’s first goal of the season at 9:56.

Nearly six minutes later– on almost the same play– Malkin received a stretch pass through the neutral zone, spun, and threw the puck to Bryan Rust (2) whereby Rust broke free of the B’s defense and scored on a quick shot from close range, tying the game, 3-3.

Malkin (1) and Galchenyuk (3) were credited with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, as the Penguins tied the game at 15:59 of the middle frame.

Boston had given up three unanswered goals almost as quick as they had scored three unanswered goals to begin the game.

John Marino tripped Bergeron at 17:50 and sent the Bruins on their second power play of the night.

Seven seconds into the vulnerable minute after special teams play, Marino was freed from the box and lucked out into a puck that split Boston’s defenders and was unattended in the neutral zone.

Marino (1) completed Pittsburgh’s comeback with a breakaway goal– his first career NHL goal– in front of his hometown crowd, giving the Pens their first lead of the night, 4-3, at 19:57 on an unassisted effort.

After 40 minutes of action in Boston on Monday night, the Penguins led the Bruins, 4-3, on the scoreboard and dominated shots on goal, 30-16– including a, 21-6, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Boston led in blocked shots (8-7), while Pittsburgh led in takeaways (4-2), hits (19-15) and faceoff win% (57-43) entering the second intermission.

Both teams had eight giveaways aside, while the Penguins were 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 0/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

Midway through the third period, Carlo and Zach Aston-Reese received roughing minors after getting into a skirmish post-whistle at 7:02 of the final frame.

The two teams played 4-on-4 for two minutes until full strength resumed, but in the meantime, Boston went to work on tying the game while even at four skaters aside.

Marchand kept the play alive in the offensive zone at the point while protecting the puck and sent a pass to Torey Krug for a one-timer while the Bruins defender was down by the goal line in the attacking zone.

Krug (2) rocketed his shot past Jarry for the tying goal, 4-4, at 8:14 of the third period as Marchand (17) and Krejci (3) picked up the assists.

Nearly a few minutes later, Bjugstad caught DeBrusk with a high stick at 11:47 and was sent to the sin bin for his minor infraction.

The Bruins did not score on the ensuing power play and nearly gave up a short handed goal against as Rust broke into the zone, but was denied by Halak while Charlie McAvoy crashed into the net– head first– while racing back to bail out his goaltender.

McAvoy skated off on his own while bleeding profusely after Boston’s head athletic trainer, Don DelNegro, attended to the young defender.

Nearly four minutes after McAvoy went down with an injury, Krug appeared to have been cut in a melee in front of the net after Pittsburgh thought they had scored with 2:59 remaining in the game, but had actually knocked the net off of its moorings by their own volition as Rust had bumped the net off its pegs while crashing into the goal.

Less than a minute later, Marchand (10) rang the post with a shot that bounced off the iron, then off of Jarry’s back and just across the goal line before Crosby got his stick on the puck and banked it out of the net, off of his goaltender and back into the net (as if it hadn’t already gone in the first time).

Needless to say, the Bruins had made it, 5-4, at 18:03 of the third period on a wacky bounce.

With nothing left to lose, Sullivan pulled Jarry for an extra attacker with about 80 seconds left in the game, but it was to no avail as Boston cleared the zone in the dying seconds.

Marchand freed the puck to Krejci who sent Bergeron (7) through the neutral zone for the empty net goal at 19:46– securing the victory for the Bruins, 6-4.

Krejci (4) and Marchand (18) tabbed the assists on Bergeron empty netter and Boston finished the night with the win at the final horn, despite being outshot by Pittsburgh, 44-26– including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone for the Pens.

The Bruins finished Monday night’s action leading in blocked shots (12-9), giveaways (13-11) and hits (29-26), while the Penguins left TD Garden leading in shots and in faceoff win% (54-46).

Neither team found any success on the power play with Pittsburgh going 0/1 on the skater advantage and Boston finishing the night 0/3.

The Bruins are 7-0-1 at home this season and are on a six-game winning streak.

The B’s improved to 8-1-0 when leading after the first period and have scored first in all eight of their home games so far this season, while progressing to 9-1-1 when scoring first this season.

Boston also improved to 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods this season as the Penguins fell to 5-2-0 when leading after 40 minutes.

The Bruins finished their three-game homestand 3-0-0and head up to Montreal to face the Canadiens on Tuesday before traveling to Detroit to face the Red Wings on Friday. Boston returns home on Nov. 10th for a two-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers (Nov. 10th) and Florida Panthers (Nov. 12th).

Categories
Daily Matchup

Game of the week: March 4-10

It’s hard to believe, but there’s less than one month remaining in the regular season. 16 clubs are none too concerned about that, but with the exception of Tampa Bay, we don’t officially know yet which teams those are.

Take a look at this week’s schedule that got us a little closer to figuring out the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

NHL SCHEDULE: March 4-10
TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN) VISITOR HOST NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
Result
Monday, March 4
7 p.m. Edmonton Buffalo 4-3
9 p.m. Toronto Calgary 6-2
Tuesday, March 5
7 p.m. Carolina Boston 3-4 (OT)
7 p.m. Columbus New Jersey 2-1 (SO)
7 p.m. Ottawa Senators New York Islanders 4-5 (SO)
7 p.m. Florida Pittsburgh 2-3 (OT)
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Tampa Bay 2-5
8 p.m. Minnesota Nashville 4-5 (SO)
8:30 p.m. New York Rangers Dallas Stars 0-1
9 p.m. Detroit Colorado 3-4 (OT)
9 p.m. Anaheim Arizona 3-1
10:30 p.m. Montréal Los Angeles 3-1
Wednesday, March 6
7:30 p.m. Washington Philadelphia 5-3
9 p.m. Toronto Vancouver 2-3 (OT)
10 p.m. St. Louis Anaheim 5-4
10:30 p.m. Calgary Vegas 1-2
Thursday, March 7
7 p.m. Florida Boston 3-4
7 p.m. Columbus Pittsburgh 0-3
7:30 p.m. New York Islanders Ottawa Senators 4-2
7:30 p.m. New York Rangers Detroit Red Wings 2-3 (SO)
7:30 p.m. Minnesota Tampa Bay 3-0
8:30 p.m. Buffalo Chicago 4-5 (SO)
8:30 p.m. Colorado Dallas 0-4
9 p.m. Vancouver Edmonton 2-3
9 p.m. Calgary Arizona 0-2
10:30 p.m. St. Louis Los Angeles 4-0
10:30 p.m. Montréal San Jose 2-5
Friday, March 8
7 p.m. Minnesota Florida 2-6
7 p.m. New Jersey Washington 0-3
7:30 p.m. Winnipeg Carolina 8-1
10 p.m. Montréal Anaheim 2-8
Saturday, March 9
3 p.m. Buffalo Colorado  
4 p.m. St. Louis San Jose NHLN
7 p.m. Toronto Edmonton CBC, NHLN, SN
7 p.m. Ottawa Boston CITY, SN1, TVAS
7 p.m. Detroit Tampa Bay  
7 p.m. Philadelphia Flyers New York Islanders  
7 p.m. New Jersey Devils New York Rangers  
7 p.m. Pittsburgh Columbus  
8 p.m. Los Angeles Arizona  
8 p.m. Carolina Nashville  
8 p.m. Chicago Dallas  
10 p.m. Vegas Vancouver CBC, CITY, SN, SN1
Sunday, March 10
5 p.m. Detroit Florida  
7 p.m. Winnipeg Washington SN
7:30 p.m. Boston Pittsburgh NBCSN, TVAS
9:30 p.m. Vegas Calgary SN1
10 p.m. Los Angeles Anaheim NBCSN

As always, this week’s NHL schedule did not disappoint. We were given our regular serving of rivalries, starting with a throwback in Denver when Detroit visited Colorado on Tuesday. Wednesday also featured a derby, this one involving the Capitals heading to the City of Brotherly Love.

Columbus and Pittsburgh will square off twice this week, with the Pens taking Game 1 on Thursday before heading to Ohio for Game 2 this evening. Speaking of Thursday, the Rangers and Red Wings also matched up and honored Ted Lindsay with an extremely competitive game.

Finally, this weekend also features the previously-mentioned Penguins-Blue Jackets tilt and the Battle of the Hudson River today followed by the Freeway Face-Off tomorrow night.

In regards to momentous homecomings this week, there weren’t any. By my estimation, the most important was Kevin Fiala‘s return to Nashville. Fiala played 204 games with the Predators since being drafted by the organization in 2014 before being traded to Minnesota at this year’s deadline.

As to which game takes our attention this week, I’ve been drawn to the Columbus-Pittsburgh series. With six teams (Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Capitals, Hurricanes, Islanders and Penguins) fighting for five spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, one good side is going to see its season end at 82 games.

While not a season-ender, this series is a major step for both Columbus and Pittsburgh in determining their postseason fates. With two points already in the Pens’ pockets, how will tonight’s tilt go down?

Coming into tonight’s game with a 36-22-9 record, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently holding down third place in the Metropolitan Division.

While that is certainly an improvement from where this team was just a few weeks ago, the Pens’ job is still not finished as they only have a four-point cushion separating them from ending their season at 82 games.

Pittsburgh isn’t looking back these days, though. It’s riding a solid six-game point streak (4-0-2) that includes two wins against tonight’s opponent (more on that later) and a 5-1 victory in Québec.

Pittsburgh fans will know that this string of games started with the Stadium Series overtime loss in Philadelphia. That was a game that cost the Penguins two defensemen (D Brian Dumoulin has since returned to action on Tuesday) and has forced them to reexamine their defensive game, involving each and every skater on the ice.

While this new strategy has certainly paid major dividends for Head Coach Mike Sullivan‘s side, there is one player who has still shined brighter than the rest: 22-10-3 G Matt Murray.

Despite the new defensive strategies, Pittsburgh is still yielding an average of 31 shots per game during this run – the NHL’s middle-of-the-road since February 23. Despite that, the Penguins are also yielding an average of only 2.17 goals against per game, the fifth-best mark in that time.

Murray has been in net for all of the Penguins’ last six games and claims a commanding .93 save percentage and associated 2.12 GAA for those outings (both eighth-best in the league among the 28 netminders with at least four starts since February 23). Those outstanding numbers boost his season statistics to a .916 save percentage and 2.79 GAA, the 10th and 19th-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 43 goaltenders with at least 24 starts to their credit.

With a home game against the Bruins tomorrow night, it remains to be seen which goaltender Sullivan starts this evening. If I had my druthers, Murray would be in action this evening considering the importance of beating a division rival in a tightly contested playoff race. With 12 points (and two games-in-hand against the Habs) separating Boston from the a wildcard spot, Pittsburgh cannot worry about the Bruins until it runs into them in a potential playoff matchup (whether that would be the Conference Semifinals or Final remains to be seen).

Of course, it would be highly irresponsible to talk about the Penguins and not mention their potent offense. Averaging 3.45 goals per game for the season, Pittsburgh has been operating at a slightly higher level lately, as it has averaged 3.67 goals per game during this six-game run (again, I emphasize slightly) – the (t)sixth-best mark in the league since February 23.

Pittsburgh’s top line has carried most of that charge, which of course means C Sidney Crosby has been the star of the show. In his past six games, the captain has managed an outstanding 6-8-14 effort to lead the league in scoring in that time (well, he’s technically tied with Florida’s F Jonathan Huberdeau on points, but Crosby has played fewer games and scored more goals to take the title in my book).

Joining Crosby in averaging a point per game for the Pens during this run are linemates F Jake Guentzel (5-3-8 totals) and F Jared McCann (3-3-6).

Since all of 37-27-3 Columbus’ moves at the trade deadline, everything it has done from then until the end of the season has taken on a new life.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, that new light isn’t all that positive, as they’ve gone on a 2-4-0 run since then to find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, trailing Montréal by two points for the East’s second wild card.

Though Columbus has struggled to keep opponents off the board during this six-game run (the Jackets have allowed 3.5 goals against per game since February 26, the eighth-worst mark in the NHL in that time), an even bigger problem has been its offense.

With the exception of fellow Metropolitan member New Jersey, no team has struggled more on the attack since the trade deadline than Columbus. The Blue Jackets are averaging only 1.5 goals per game in their last six outings, compared to the 11th-best 3.04 they’ve averaged for the season.

Surely, much of this can be attributed to all of the Jackets’ deadline additions. In fact, the second line has been entirely revamped and now features Oliver Bjorkstrand and former-Senators Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel (who’s celebrating his 27th birthday today). Fortunately for Columbus, Duchene and Dzingel regularly played together in Ottawa, so it is just a matter of Head Coach John Tortorella finding the right person to complete their line.

However, a lack of familiarity cannot be the excuse for Columbus’ top line, as Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin have spent the entire season together. Instead, all three combine for only 3-6-9 totals in the past six games.

Dubois in particular is struggling the most. He’s only registered one assist since the trade deadline, well off the .81 points per game average he’s managed for the entire season. As his club’s top center, Dubois’ performance can often dictate his team’s success. The sooner he breaks out of his funk, the sooner, Columbus will begin finding success once again.

In addition to cleaning up Columbus and Pittsburgh’s home-and-home, tonight’s game also concludes the four-game regular season series between the two clubs. The Penguins have won the first three meetings 4-2 on November 24, 5-2 on February 26 and 3-0 on Thursday.

Unfortunately for Columbus, I don’t see that script changing tonight. The Penguins have been playing incredibly well lately now that they’ve bought into their new strategy, and that doesn’t pair well with the Blue Jackets’ offensive struggles.

I don’t think the Jackets will be shutout for the second game in a row, but I do think the Pens will win 3-1.

Categories
Nick's Net

DeSmith stops a career-high 48 saves in 5-3 win for Pittsburgh

Casey DeSmith was the star of the game Friday night at PPG Paints Arena as the Pittsburgh Penguins de facto starting netminder made 48 saves in a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins.

Jake Guentzel had the game-winning goal midway through the third period after a pair of quick goals by the Bruins had tied the game, but the Penguins held strong with DeSmith leading the way from his crease.

DeSmith (10-5-4 record, 2.46 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 22 games played) made 48 saves on 51 shots against for a .941 SV% in the win, while Boston goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (9-5-2, 2.40 GAA, .926 SV% in 18 GP) turned aside 23 shots on 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins have now dropped their last four games in Pittsburgh and snapped a three-game winning streak with the loss and remain 4th in the Atlantic Division with a 17-11-4 record (38 points).

Pittsburgh bounced back from a, 6-3, blowout loss at United Center on Wednesday– though the Pens haven’t won in Chicago since February 27, 2009 and last beat the Blackhawks in the regular season on March 30, 2014– and improved to 14-11-6 (34 points) on the season to move into 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division– surpassing the New York Islanders for the last divisional playoff spot.

Kevan Miller (larynx) was back to practice on Thursday in a red no-contact jersey for the Bruins, while Jake DeBrusk (concussion) remains out of the lineup.

Noel Acciari was inserted back on the fourth line at center for Friday night’s matchup with the Penguins after missing the last three games since Dec. 6th as a healthy scratch.

Sean Kuraly slid over from centering the fourth line to playing left wing, having missed Thursday’s practice to undergo minor surgery for his broken nose (sustained in a fight with Ben Harpur in Ottawa last Sunday).

As a result, Gemel Smith joined Jeremy Lauzon as the only healthy scratches for Boston, with Miller (throat), DeBrusk (concussion) Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (rib/sternoclavicular) and Urho Vaakanainen (concussion) still out of the lineup due to injury.

Bruce Cassidy kept the rest of the lines and defensive pairings unchanged from Boston’s three-game win streak entering Friday in Pittsburgh.

Brandon Carlo was guilty of the game’s first penalty– a minor infraction for holding– at 2:24 of the first period and the Penguins went on the power play for the first time of the night.

Pittsburgh did not convert on the skater advantage.

Later in the period, DeSmith robbed Boston forward, Brad Marchand, of an otherwise surefire goal as DeSmith got the glove on Marchand’s elevated backhand shot.

Late in the first period, Derek Grant (2) put one through Halak for the game’s first goal to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead at 17:48.

Matt Cullen (3) and Garrett Wilson (2) had the assists on Grant’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the Penguins led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, while trailing, 11-9, in shots on goal. Boston held onto the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and face-off win percentage (56-44), while Pittsburgh led in giveaways (2-1) and hits (20-15).

Both teams had two blocked shots each through one period and the Pens were 0/1 on the power play.

Phil Kessel (13) went unchallenged for a goal early in the second period that made it, 2-0, Penguins after all five skaters for Boston collapsed into a small box their own zone.

Evgeni Malkin (24) and Zach Aston-Reese (3) had the assists on Kessel’s goal at 1:56 of the second period.

Almost midway through the period, Guentzel slashed David Backes and was sent to the penalty box at 9:00 of the middle frame.

The Bruins were unable to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, but began to swing momentum into their favor as about a minute after the power play expired, Carlo (1) blasted a shot from the point past DeSmith to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half, 2-1.

Carlo’s goal was his first in 116 games– breaking the longest active goalless streak in the NHL– and notching his first tally since March 4, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils.

Chris Wagner (2) and Kuraly (4) had the assists on the goal at 11:53.

Late in the period, Guentzel cut a rut back into the sin bin for tripping David Pastrnak at 17:22 of the second period.

While on the power play, the Bruins turned the puck over and the ensuing result was costly as Aston-Reese (3) floated a shot past Halak to make it a two-goal game once again.

Pittsburgh led, 3-1, as Aston-Reese scored their first shorthanded goal of the season. For the Bruins, it was their fifth shorthanded goal against this season and yet another defensive breakdown in Friday night’s action.

Riley Sheahan (2) and Brian Dumoulin (9) were credited with the assists on Aston-Reese’s goal at 19:01, deflating any momentum the Bruins had gathered.

After 40 minutes of play, Pittsburgh led, 3-1, and Boston led in shots on goal, 29-18 (18-9 in the second period alone). The Pens held the advantage in blocked shots (9-4), giveaways (5-2) and hits (37-27) after two periods, while the B’s led in takeaways (4-2) and face-off win% (64-36).

Pittsburgh was still 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 0/2.

Boston opened the third period with a lot more pressure in their own zone than they exhibited in the first 40 minutes of action, which eventually led to a turnover-turned-goal almost midway through the period.

But first, after Charlie McAvoy jumped on a loose puck before it could exit the offensive zone, Wagner (3) received a pass and ripped a one-timer past DeSmith to bring the Bruins to within one goal and make it, 3-2.

McAvoy (6) and Kuraly (5) had the assists on Wagner’s goal at 7:08 of the third period.

A mere 52 seconds later, the B’s forced a turnover and exchanged it for a rush into the attacking zone that led to an initial shot from Pastrnak that rang the crossbar behind DeSmith.

With the puck bouncing back out of the crease and DeSmith well out of position, David Krejci (5) was able to secure just enough possession to get off a backhand shot of his own into the open twine, tying the game, 3-3.

Pastrnak (18) and Marchand (23) had the assists on Krejci’s goal at 8:02.

Moments later, Guentzel (13) tipped in a shot from the point by Kris Letang and the Penguins led once again, 4-3. Letang (18) and Sidney Crosby (18) had the assists on Guentzel’s goal at 10:47 of the third period.

Cassidy pulled Halak for an extra attacker with about 90 seconds remaining in regulation.

Torey Krug fired a shot wide of the goal on the ensuing face-off in the offensive zone and the puck bounced off the end-boards with enough force to generate another chance in the low slot had Ryan Donato gotten there in time.

Instead, DeSmith was able to get to it first and covered the puck up for another face-off.

With 14 seconds left in the game, Boston used their only timeout to draw up a plan to tie the game once again, but it was to no avail.

At 19:54 of the third period, Aston-Reese (4) pocketed his second goal of the night on the empty net, with the assists to Crosby (19) and Jack Johnson (6)– making it, 5-3, Pittsburgh.

Upon the final horn, the Penguins beat the Bruins for the fourth time in-a-row at PPG Paints Arena.

The B’s outshot the Pens, 51-28, after 60 minutes, but couldn’t muster enough in the goal scoring department to outdo Pittsburgh.

The Penguins, in the meantime, led in blocked shots (15-7), giveaways (6-3) and hits (52-35) after the action Friday night. The Bruins finished the night atop face-off win%, 61-39, and went 0/2 on the power play, while Pittsburgh finished 0/1.

With the win on Friday, Pittsburgh improved to 10-4-5 when scoring first this season. DeSmith made a career-high 48 saves, surpassing his previous career-high mark of 42 saves late in the third period.

Boston travels back home for a Sunday evening (5 p.m. ET puck drop) matchup at TD Garden with the Buffalo Sabres before traveling to Montreal for a square with the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Monday.

The Bruins return home after that for a two-game homestand– starting next Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks and concluding next Saturday in a matinee matchup with the Nashville Predators.

Sunday, Dec. 23rd, the Carolina Hurricanes play host to the Bruins on Whalers Night at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hurricanes will be wearing their throwback Hartford Whalers sweaters for the first time this season.


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Previews

Pittsburgh Penguins 2018-2019 Season Preview

 Pittsburgh Penguins

47-29-6, 100 points, second in the Metropolitan Division

Lost in Second Round to Washington, 4-2

Additions: F Matt Cullen, D Stefan Elliott, C Derek Grant, RW Jimmy Hayes, D Jack Johnson, G John Muse, D Juuso Riikola

Subtractions: D Lukas Bengtsson (signed with Linköpings, SHL), C Vincent Dunn (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Matt Hunwick (traded to BUF), C Josh Jooris (signed with TOR), W Tom Kuhnhackl (signed with NYI), D Andrey Pedan (signed with Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), F Carter Rowney (signed with ANA), LW Tom Sestito (retired), W Conor Sheary (traded to BUF), D Jarred Tinordi (signed with NSH)

Offseason Analysis: Almost every season during C Sidney Crosby and F Evgeni Malkin‘s tenure has started with the goal of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

However, this campaign is a little bit different than any before it.

Pittsburgh entered last season as the reigning back-to-back champion. The Pens had their ups and downs during the regular season, but after a six-game victory over intrastate rival Philadelphia in the First Round set up yet another conference semifinals meeting with Washington, fate seemed to be in the black-and-gold’s corner once again.

After all, the Penguins almost always beat the Capitals in the playoffs.

That modifier proved to be important, as the Caps defeated the battle-worn Penguins 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 to eliminate them for only the second time in 11 postseason meetings.

With Washington going on to win its first championship in franchise history, it put the onus on Head Coach Mike Sullivan‘s squad to win this year – not only to reclaim one of the most coveted trophies in the world from a division rival, but also to stake claim to the title of the NHL’s 10th dynasty and first since the 1983-1990 Oilers.

The league officially declares a club a dynasty if it claims at least three championships in the span of four years. With two titles in the past three seasons, this is a make-or-break season for Pittsburgh if Crosby and co. want to add that impressive listing to their resumes.

Offensively, Pittsburgh’s biggest addition for the 2018-2019 season actually occurred at the 2018 trade deadline when it completed a three-way trade for C Derick Brassard. It didn’t help that Brassard suffered a lower-body injury so close the regular season, but Pittsburgh is hoping it will see an improvement from the 4-8-12 totals the former Senator posted in 26 regular season and playoff games after he had a full summer to rest, recuperate and learn Sullivan’s system.

Brassard is just about as close to a lock for the third line’s center position as possible.

After a year of service to the Wild, soon-to-be 42-year-old Cullen was also added back into the mix and will surely assume fourth-line center duties, forcing F Riley Sheahan to the wing. With his immense experience at center, Sheahan will be a valuable commodity capable of playing on either the third or fourth line to serve as the backup face-off man should Brassard or Cullen get kicked out of the dot.

Any other changes to the Pens’ attack will come from within the organization. The clamor around the Steel City for RW Daniel Sprong is deafening (he posted 32-33-65 totals in 65 games played last year in the AHL), but his 2-1-3 effort in eight NHL games last season was not enough to convince Sullivan that he should stay with the senior team full time. He still has one more year left on his contract after this season, but the limited minutes awarded a former second-rounder gives many – including myself – the indication that Penguins coaches and management are running out of patience with the youngster’s growth.

In the same turn, F Dominik Simon and F Zach Aston-Reese earned their first Stanley Cup Playoff minutes last season, but only registered respective three and one assists in their eight or nine postseason outings (Simon managed 4-8-12 totals in 33 NHL regular season games last season, while Aston-Reese posted 4-2-6 marks in his 16 regular season showings).

None are locks for the roster, especially with the signings of Grant (12-12-24 totals in 66 games played with Buffalo last season) – another center that could transition to the wing – and Hayes (3-6-9 in 33 appearances with the Devils). General Manager Jim Rutherford is going to have to be very decisive with who makes the squad and who doesn’t, as he will not want to risk losing any of his talented youths to the waiver wire if he’s forced to make a move during the regular season.

The Penguins were even more quiet on the defensive front this summer, but there is two signings along the blue line worth talking about. While a defensive corps that includes Brian Dumoulin, new hire Johnson, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Jamie Oleksiak and Justin Schultz looks like it’d be more than solid enough to keep life easy for G Matt Murray, Pittsburgh could be in line for an upgrade if Riikola continues to impress even more than he already has.

The 24-year-old (he’ll turn 25 on November 9) from Joensuu, Finland has played a majority of the last six seasons playing in SM-Liiga  (Finland’s top professional league) with KalPa – including playing exclusively with the senior team since 2015-2016 – and he’s been reported to be adjusting to the North American game very quickly and is garnering a lot of attention early in the Pens’ training camp.

Now, that’s not to say Riikola (yes, pronounced like the cough drop company) will avoid Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and automatically make the team. With Pittsburgh’s top six defensemen locked into contracts through next season (seventh-man Chad Ruhwedel will be a UFA next summer), it’s hard to find him a spot on the roster as things stand currently.

However, should the organization decide he’s the real deal (for what it’s worth, he’s been practicing with both Dumoulin, a left-handed shot, and Letang, a right-handed shot), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rutherford begin fielding trade offers for one of his defensemen in efforts to create a spot for Riikola and improve his bottom-six offensive depth.

Offseason Grade: B

It’s hard to say the Penguins had an A-class offseason considering their overall inactivity, but I’d also argue that there was less to fix than a second round elimination at the hands of the eventual champs would indicate. The real work for this roster will be done when deciding to go with youth or experience, as the core of this group is still certainly capable of winning the Stanley Cup once again.

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NHL Nick's Net

How the Vegas Golden Knights got here

The Vegas Golden Knights had 500-1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season back in October. Now, they’re just four wins away.

vegas_golden_knights_logo

Let’s clarify a few things here:

1. The team has a lot of leadership.

Whether it’s Jon Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Deryk Engelland or Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights have a deep locker room of leaders.

And that’s not doing enough justice to give their head coach, Gerard Gallant, some credit for the way the team’s carried themselves.

2. The team has a lot of playoff experience.

Vegas general manager George McPhee didn’t look for just a bunch of nobody’s. This is Fleury’s fifth appearance in the Stanley Cup Final– and third straight.

Entering this postseason, only the following Golden Knights regulars had zero games of playoff experience– Ryan Carpenter, William Carrier, Tomas Nosek, Malcolm Subban (their backup goaltender, not likely to see any playing time with Fleury existing) and Alex Tuch.

Fleury (115 games), Neal (80), Perron (42), Ryan Reaves (36), Engelland (28), Erik Haula (24), Nate Schmidt (21), Luca Sbisa (20) and Shea Thoedore (20) all had at least 20 games of playoff experience coming into the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Reaves, of course, was acquired prior to the trade deadline. Primarily for his scoring prowess in an elimination game, obviously. Wait.

3. The 2017 Expansion Draft was not rigged.

Nobody told Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon he had to a) leave Marchessault exposed and b) trade Reilly Smith to Vegas to ensure they wouldn’t select someone other than Marchessault at the Expansion Draft.

Let’s reword that a bit.

Marchessault was left exposed and the Panthers did not specify that he was untouchable as part of the Smith deal. Florida encouraged Vegas to take on Smith’s $5.000 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season after one down year with the Panthers.

The Golden Knights were the scapegoat for salary cap mismanagement by other NHL teams and everyone thought Vegas wouldn’t turn out to be this way.

Fleury was assured of being selected by McPhee and Co. thanks to Pittsburgh’s tight cap after winning back-to-back Cups along with their goaltending situation in which Matt Murray had rightfully taken the starting goaltender role. The Penguins even sent a 2018 second round pick in the trade to persuade Vegas to select Fleury in the Expansion Draft instead of a guy like Brian Dumoulin.

William Karlsson had underperformed with the Columbus Blue Jackets and was left exposed to Vegas as part of a deal that saw the Golden Knights take on David Clarkson‘s deadweight contract.

A happy accident– or more accurately, superb scouting and foresight. That same scouting led to nailing more than one needle in a haystack.

Alex Tuch? Traded by the Minnesota Wild to Vegas as part of an agreement that McPhee would select Erik Haula.

The Anaheim Ducks traded Theodore to Vegas so the Golden Knights would take Clayton Stoner and not one of Anaheim’s young core players of the future.

Finally, the talent pool is better than ever before. The Golden Knights were bound to stockpile a few good players as a result of stacked rosters (in theory) across the 30 other NHL clubs.

McPhee also worked the phones and made more than a few trades and depth signings in free agency.

Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk were both free agent signings that held things over for Vegas in the net while Fleury and Subban were injured for almost the first quarter of the regular season. Dansk went down with an injury himself four games into the Golden Knights third-string goaltending emergency relief plan.

When the Golden Knights turned to Dylan Ferguson in goal it was only possible because of McPhee’s deal with the Dallas Stars in which defender Marc Methot, who was claimed at the Expansion Draft by Vegas, was flipped to Dallas for Ferguson and a 2020 second round pick.

Not every selection made by Vegas in the 2017 Expansion Draft suited up for the Golden Knights.

Trevor van Riemsdyk was packaged with a 2018 seventh round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for Pittsburgh’s 2017 second round pick (Jake Leschyshyn).

David Schlemko was flipped to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2019 fifth round pick.

Alexei Emelin was sent to the Nashville Predators for a 2018 third round pick.

Despite appearing in preseason action for Vegas, last season’s backup goaltender with the Colorado Avalanche– turned AHL backup goaltender with the Toronto Marlies this season– Calvin Pickard was dealt to the Maple Leafs for a 2018 sixth round pick and Tobias Lindberg.

Pickard’s trade was spurned by McPhee finding a better backup goaltender at no cost to the organization– Malcolm Subban.

Subban was claimed off waivers from Boston after the Bruins waited a few days after waivers went into effect to decide on sending him to Providence.

Ryan Carpenter? Another claim off waivers– midseason— from the San Jose Sharks.

It’s a professional league. It’s a free market. Something, something, stop complaining because your team has a history of letting you down. The Golden Knights will let their fans down in time, just like every other professional sports franchise in the history of all major professional North American sports.

But for now, why not enjoy the ride?

They swept a 1967 expansion team in the First Round, they defeated a 1990s expansion team in the Second Round and now they’ve beaten a late-1990s expansion franchise that relocated to Winnipeg in 2011 for the Western Conference championship.

There’s never going to be another run quite like this and if it ends in a Stanley Cup championship maybe we should all meet in Vegas for the afterparty. Celebrate the sport.

Categories
Playoff Recaps

Capitals break Washington’s 20-year curse, advance to Eastern Finals

Washington Capitals Logopittsburgh_penguins_logoWashington Capitals forward, Evgeny Kuznetsov, had a tremendous chance to give Washington a two-goal lead in the second period, but couldn’t settle the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender, Matt Murray was down, leaving a mostly open net exposed.

Diehard D.C. sports fans in living rooms across Maryland and Virginia shrugged. They had seen their teams do this before, with all four major North American D.C. sports franchises having blown opportunities to advance to the conference finals in their respective sport since 1998.

But tonight would prove to be different. Kuznetsov would get his shot (literally) at redemption.

At 5:27 of overtime, Kuznetsov scored the game-winning goal— ending Washington, D.C.’s 20-year Eastern Conference Finals appearance drought— as the Capitals defeated the Penguins 2-1 on the road in Game 6.

Braden Holtby made 21 saves on 22 shots against for a .955 save percentage in 65:27 time on ice in the win for Washington, while Murray stopped 28 shots out of 30 shots faced for a .933 SV% in 65:27 TOI in the loss.

Both teams got going in the first period— trading scoring chance for scoring chance— but neither team was able to score in the opening 20 minutes of Game 6 Monday night.

Instead, the only event sheet worthy action in the first period were a couple of minor penalties; one to Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta for high-sticking at 4:11 and the other to Washington’s Michal Kempny for tripping at 11:25.

After one period of play, the Capitals led in shots on goal (7-6) and hits (16-9), while the Penguins led in blocked shots (7-5), takeaways (3-2), giveaways (8-2) and faceoff win percentage (63-38). The score remained tied, 0-0, through 20 minutes of play and both teams were 0/1 on their respective power play opportunities.

Alex Chiasson (1) notched his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs— and a timely one at that— as the Capitals took the game’s first lead of the night, 1-0, just over two minutes into the second period. Nathan Walker (1) and Jay Beagle (3) had the assists on Chiasson’s goal, making Walker the fifth Washington rookie to amass a point in this postseason, as well as the first Australian born NHL player to record a point in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

Kuzenetsov couldn’t bury the puck on a largely open net shortly thereafter.

Sidney Crosby won an offensive zone faceoff midway through the second period and worked the puck back to Brian Dumoulin.

The Penguins defender sent it along to his partner on the blueline, Kris Letang (3) who threw a shot towards the net, where, after deflecting off of a Capitals skater’s stick, the puck went past Holtby and hit the twine, tying the game, 1-1, as the home crowd at PPG Paints Arena erupted.

Dumoulin (6) and Crosby (12) were credited with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Letang’s game-tying goal at 11:52 of the second period.

Pittsburgh surged.

They fired chance after chance at Holtby, only to end up providing the Washington netminder with a highlight reel save with about seven seconds left in the period.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Penguins and Capitals were tied, 1-1. Shots on goal were even too, 15-15. Pittsburgh led in blocked shots (15-11), takeaways (5-3) and giveaways (12-2), while Washington led in hits (29-21). The Pens continued to dominate the faceoff dot, with a 62-38 faceoff win percentage advantage. Neither team recorded a penalty in the second period, so both were still 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Caps came out in the third period swinging. Then the Penguins responded. Neither team put the puck past their opponent’s goaltender, however.

Holtby made a desperation save with under three minutes to go in regulation and Murray made a desperation save with under one minute remaining in regulation to match Holtby’s effort.

At the end of 60 minutes, the score remained, 1-1, with the Capitals outshooting the Penguins, 24-20. Washington also led in hits (35-29), while Pittsburgh had an advantage in blocked shots (19-14), takeaways (9-3), giveaways (15-4) and faceoff win percentage (65-35).

There were no penalties assessed in the third period, so both teams remained 0/1 on the power play.

Entering overtime, the Capitals held an experience advantage in extra frames this postseason as Washington was taking part in their fifth overtime game of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs while Pittsburgh was seeing their first game past 60 minutes.

Penguins forward, Tom Kuhnhackl, rang the far left post early into the sudden death action shortly after the Capitals generated a couple quality scoring chances on Murray.

T.J. Oshie connected with John Carlson and the Washington defender almost ended it, but soon enough the end would come as the Capitals capitalized on a similar breakout play.

Alex Ovechkin sent Kuznetsov into the zone on a lead pass that turned into a breakaway as Penguins defender, Kris Letang, was caught out of position.

Kuznetsov (7) buried the puck past Murray and Washington propelled themselves over their biggest speed bump in the postseason in the Ovechkin era— the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Ovechkin (7) and Dmitry Orlov (5) notched the assists in poetic fashion, as Ovechkin is often subject to criticism for not doing enough to put his team over the edge. Monday night, his critics were rightfully silenced.

The Capitals won, 2-1, and led in shots on goal, 30-22. Pittsburgh finished the night leading in blocked shots (21-14), giveaways (15-4) and faceoff win percentage (62-38), while Washington finished the night with more hits (36-33). Both teams were 0/1 on the power play with no penalties called after the first period.

For the third time in franchise history (1990 vs. BOS, 1998 vs. BUF, 2018), Washington is in the Eastern Conference Finals. They will square off with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the chance to play in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.