The Penguins played one of their best periods of the season in the first period against the Bruins and while they didn’t play the best hockey in the second and third period that strong first period propelled them to a 5-2 win over the Bruins at the CONSOL Energy Center.
This was the first game of a pretty brutal four game stretch where the Penguins also matchup against the Rangers, Devils and Flyers. They dominated the Bruins today and left no doubt about who was the better team and it seems as if the Penguins were sending a message that the winning streak that they are currently on is not just because they are playing against non playoff teams but they can beat some of the best in the league also.
It was all done in the first period today. The Penguins came out guns a blazing and were more physical and looked like they were men playing against boys. This is not so strange for the Penguins to dominate periods of games but they rarely cash in and head into the intermission with more than a one goal lead but today was totally different.
Arron Asham, Matt Niskanen and James Neal cashed in for the Penguins in the first period with Asham and Niskanen scoring in the first eight minutes of the game and Neal finally breaking a long scoring slump on a 5-on-3 power play goal. This was all with the great Tim Thomas in net. He would not return for the second period.
The Bruins were right back into the game with a David Krejci goal just two minutes into the second period. There was a ton of time left and a two goal lead isn’t much with some much time on the clock but the Penguins answered with a Chris Kunitz goal just under three minutes later. It was Kunitz’s 20th goal of the season. I remember when the Penguins first signed Kunitz a lot of people weren’t happy with the cap hit but this is why Ray Shero is the GM and you are eating Cheetos on your couch.
Krejci scored his second of the game halfway through the second period. Made you still watch the game because it wasn’t over. The third period was pretty good hockey all around and it was Marc Andre Fleury who stole the show and made some great saves to keep it a two goal game. Pascal Dupuis put the game on ice with his 18th goal of the season with just under four minutes to go. You know how you talk about Kunitz being an underrated role player, well you can add Pascal Dupuis to that list and probably more so than Kunitz.
People around the league can have Luongo, Price, Lundqvist, Brodeur, Rinne, Thomas and all of them but I will take Marc Andre Fleury every day of the week. He gave up a pair of goals to Krejci today but he stopped 34 shots and made a few clutch saves in the third period to not even give the Bruins a chance to get back into the game.
The first line of Kunitz-Malkin-Neal hasn’t contributed too much point wise over the last few games but they came back with a force. They combined for seven points (two goals, five assists) but it was the first of the goals that any of them were a part of that was the best known. Matt Niskanen scored the Penguins second goal and it was assisted by both Malkin and Neal and that marked the 500th point in the NHL for Malkin and the 200th point for Neal. Malkin became the fourth fastest player in NHL history to score 500 goals. Not too shabby.
It wasn’t all good for Malkin as he was part of an iffy hit on Johnny Boychuk and was slapped with a two minute minor for boarding. Here is the video:
In my opinion Malkin should have probably got a major penalty but I can’t see him getting a suspension, especially with no penalty history. Boychuk does turn into the hit a little bit and Malkin doesn’t make contact with his head at all. It was a shoulder hit that was right in the middle of the back but it looked really dangerous and Malkin admitted as much after the game. Like I said I probably would have given him a five and a game. Could have been really bad hit and thankfully it wasn’t.
The Penguins PK continues to dominate. The Bruins were unable to score in a pair of power play attempts while the Penguins cashed in on one of their four attempts which is the first power play goal they have scored since Kris Letang has been out of the lineup.
Total team effort today. The defense was pretty good for the most part. They were a little spotty in the second period but were really technically sound for most of the game and it was a good thing since they were still without Paul Martin.
Simon Despres is going to be unreal in coming years. No way I thought he would be this good this year when he first got called up.
For as much grief as I give Eric Tangradi I have to give him props today. He played some pretty good hockey in just over 10 minutes of play.
Huge game at MSG on Thursday.