For as boring and mundane as the game was on Monday against Carolina this game was the exact opposite. I was correct in the pregame assessment that people were going to try and pump this up as a redemption game and treat it like a playoff game that would eliminate the Bruins from the playoffs last season but to be really honest with you this might be one of the more intense and well played regular season games we see all season. Both goaltender were pretty outstanding and there were good chances from both teams but in the end it was the Penguins who won in regulation and after how food they have played over the past two weeks this was a really good win against a really good team.
The Penguins were the better team for the first two periods of this game but despite that they only had a one goal game. This was all about Tuukka Rask as he continued to be spectacular against the Penguins and gave them little or nothing to look at in the game. The third period was all kinds of crazy. While there was a combined one goal in the first two periods the final frame consisted of four goals and set up a really wild finish.
The Penguins were just really good the whole way around. They finally scored on the power play when Chris Kunitz went between his legs with his back facing Rask on the power play and after the Bruins tied it up the Pens got the next two goals from Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen. Jokinen has really been a great player for the Penguins all season and Sutter has been underrated good this past week and when the Penguins needed something they got it from those two guys.
While everyone was relatively good Evgeni Malkin was other worldly. While the Bruins did a nice job of keeping Sidney Crosby at bay Malkin was really the best player on the ice. The Bruins were unable to knock him off the puck and every single time he was on the ice he was a true threat to score and most times he was getting a great look on net. He did everything but score a goal. He had plenty of opportunities to do so but just couldn't beat Rask. When the goals come for Malkin this year I have a feeling they are going to come in bunches. If he plays like he did last night the rest of the season they will come in bunches.
Really, hats off to Marc-Andre Fleury and the defense. I know they started off this well last year and the regular season doesn't mean all that much in the grand scheme of things the way the Penguins have bowed out in the playoffs but it is really good to see him look so confident in the net and great to see the defense take a little more, um, defensive approach this season. The Penguins are a run and gun team in some fashion and too many times we have seen some of the defense play up offensively and really hang MAF out to dry and that hasn't been the case through the first 13 games of the season. Great to see.
This was just a really good hockey game. Both teams brought their best tonight and it turned into a game that we thought we would see in last year's ECF. Teams battling in a close checking, solid defensive game where whatever team was better in the third period and got contributions from their secondary guys was going to win. While it didn't play out that way in the playoffs it did tonight and that turned this into a great hockey game to watch. I hope more games are like this.