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.