Pittsburgh Penguins' Jeff Taffe (38) keeps his eye on the puck as it passes between the legs of Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
As seen on NESN -- Thanks to goals from B's rookies Petteri Nokelainen and Vladimir Sobotka, the Boston Bruins earned a hard fought 2-1 victory over the high -flying Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night in Mellon Arena. Sobotka's goal, the game-winner, was his first in National Hockey League play.
"This was [the type] of game that we needed," said B's coach Claude Julien to NESN. "We realized that we had to bounce back.
"That's the kind of effort it is going to take from here on out."
The Bruins sought to rebound off Tuesday's heartbreaking 3-2 loss at home to Carolina when they traveled to Pittsburgh early on Wednesday morning.
Unfortunately for the struggling club, missing in the B's hump day lineup was one Nicolas James Kobasew (a.k.a. Chuck), the team's top goal scorer (tied with Marco Sturm with 19 markers). Kobasew was sidelined with a back injury suffered against the Hurricanes, and although he was with the team, the right wing did not suit up for the game versus the Pens.
Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas did start the game for the Massachusetts version of the Black & Gold. A former Vermont Catamount, Thomas renewed an interstate collegiate rivalry against Pittsburgh backstop Ty Conklin, who once toiled at New Hampshire.
The teams traded power play opportunities early in the first period, but to no avail, and it wasn't until Nokelainen beat Conklin at 12:58 that there was a goal in the game.
"I think we had a pretty good forecheck going," said Nokelainen to NESN's Rob Simpson after the first period. "And [Metropolit] bounced it in from the corner, [Conklin] made a good save and I got the rebound."
Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Ty Conklin, rear, clears the puck from behind the net before Boston Bruins' David Krejci (46) can get to it during the second period of NHL hockey action in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Then, in the Penguins zone, a superior effort by Jeremy Reich, dressing for the first time in three contests, led to a perfect pass by Reich over to Sobotka, who scored at 14:43 and made the score 2-0, Boston.
"I know that's a great feeling [for Sobotka]," said Nokelainen. "He's been waiting for a while and it's always nice to see someone score their first."
The Bruins went to the break having allowed only four shots, and having notched 13 attempts on the Pittsburgh net.
Around the three-minute mark of the second period, Thomas was challenged by the powerful Pittsburgh offense and had five excellent saves early.
"I just tried to keep my game simple...and not make it harder than it was," explained Thomas, who was trying to rebound from a loss in his last outing.
Shortly thereafter, a Pittsburgh high stick caught Bruins veteran defenseman Aaron Ward high.
Ward fell to the ice and needed to be helped from the rink by teammates. He was followed off the playing surface by trainers from both teams. Ward did not return and was taken to Presbyterian Hospital for precautionary measures.
Boston Bruins Mark Stuart, left, falls to the ice after colliding with teammate Aaron Ward (44) and Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin, rear, of Russia, in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Despite the loss of Ward, the Boston defense remained strong and continued to keep the Penguins to the outside. That allowed Thomas to keep Pittsburgh's shots outside of the net and maintain the 2-0 lead.
Boston entered the final stanza 23-0-2 when the B's start the third period with a lead. However, the B's ran into some penalty issues in the period and it cost them.
Evgeni Malkin, camped out to the left of Thomas, scored a power-play goal at 13:02 to make it a one-goal game.
But the Bruins held on for the 2-1 win, as the five remaining Boston "D" and Thomas (20 saves) remained steady through a flurry of Penguin activity.
"Points are so important this time of year," said the victorious Thomas. "That was a great battle today...both teams were hungry."
"And our penalty killers came up big."
Boston will attempt to satisfy that hunger, again, on Saturday night in Toronto.
Notes: Defenseman Aaron Ward remained in the hospital for precautionary measures and did not travel with the team to Boston following the game. Assistant Athletic Trainer Derek Repucci remained with Ward at Pittsburgh's Presbyterian Hospital...Boston is now 24-0-2 when entering the third period with a lead...Shawn Thornton, who had two goals versus Carolina added an assist versus the Pens...Jeremy Reich, Glen Metropolit and Milan Lucic all added assists, as well.