Boston, MA – The sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TDBanknorth Garden Thursday night got a very nice treat, as the Boston Bruins game against the Pittsburgh Penguins featured everything fans could ask for: all-star players, lots of scoring and, of course, a 5-1 Bruins win, extending their point streak yet another game.
The B’s looked to keep the team's momentum going as they squared off against Penguins, who acquired big-name players Marian Hossa, Pascal Dupuis and Hal Gill before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Head coach Claude Julien wasn’t fazed, however, stressing that the team needed to “really focus on our team and not so much what’s on the other side.”
At the pre-game skate, the team knew they couldn’t ease off, despite their recent success.
“We’ve been playing well and winning some hockey games, [but] we realize that we are still in a tight race,” Coach Julien added. “It’s important for us to remain on track and keep our focus on the desperation that’s involved in winning hockey games.”
The B’s clearly took that "desperation" idea to heart. That, and the fact the Penguins played shorthanded for much of the night: Hossa played only a little over 10 minutes before leaving the game with a sore right knee.
A hit to Pittsburgh’s Tyler Kennedy, dished out by right-winger Glen Murray five minutes into the game, got the crowd going, and the subsequent breakaway by Jeff Taffe resulted in a spectacular save by goalie Tim Thomas, who kept the Penguins off the board for the time being.
Penguins goalie Ty Conklin kept the Bruins off the board with a nice pad stop 11:43 into the game, but at 9:49, Marco Sturm caught a pass from Chuck Kobasew, fresh off the injury list, and netted the puck for the first goal of the game.
“I just went to the net and gave it wide to [Glen Metropolit],” Sturm explained. “Chuck gave me a nice shot to tip.”
Sturm wasn’t done yet, though.
A little over two minutes later, at 12:07, he scored once more, this time off a shot from the Penguins left face-off circle. The puck went straight past Conklin’s glove hand and into the net.
“I was a little bit deep, so I was trying to go across and focus more on the glove side,” Sturm said. “It is probably my second slap shot goal ever.”
Head coach Claude Julien felt the forward had an excellent game.
“Tonight I saw Marco skate as well as I’ve seen him skate all year,” he said. “Those are the things we know he’s capable of doing and that we need from a guy like him….He was a good inspiration for a hockey club.”
The B’s went on the power play at 13:13 with a hooking call on Georges Laraque but failed to make anything of the man advantage. A shot by Phil Kessel with 4:41 left, which clanked off the Pittsburg goal post, however, brought the crowd to attention.
Post-game, the team credited the strong start with helping the team to victory.
“[It’s about] just getting involved, and, even if it isn’t our zone, it’s a strong defensive shift and whatnot,” said Andrew Ference. “So that’s a huge part of what we want to do because our whole game sets up from that first period, so you don’t have to come into the second and talk it over too much.”
The guys wearning the spoked-B didn’t slow down in the second at all, as Zdeno Chara quickly made the score 3-0 with a goal at 2:21. It was his 15th of the season.
While Boston celebrated, Pittsburgh quickly sent in Marc-Andre Fleury to relieve Conklin -- his first appearance since December 12th.
Chara entered the box for hooking at 10:12, but the Bruins kept Pittsburgh scoreless -- although Thomas had to get down and dirty, making a diving, scrambling save with 8:03 left to keep it that way.
Not satisfied quite yet, the B's headed into Pittsburgh’s end and, with 3:59 left, Shawn Thornton sniped the puck to a perfectly-placed P.J. Axelsson, who slid it past Fleury. Linemate Marc Savard “paid the price” for the goal, getting slammed into the boards by Penguin Kristopher Letang in his scramble for the puck.
“I knew he was coming, and I just tried to brace myself,” Savard said. “It still hurt a bit obviously, but we ended up scoring off of it. Anything that can help the team win.”
By the end of the second, shots for both teams were nearly even – the Bruins with 20, compared to the Penguins with 19 – but you wouldn’t have known it by the scoreboard.
The final period began relatively incident-free, especially as compared to the rest of the night, but a Kessel breakaway that ended in a trip and no penalty call about five minutes in garnered some boos from the crowd.
Things heated up between the team and tempers flared, and virtually everyone on the ice, save the goalies, got involved. A scuffle in the Bruins zone, occurring at 10:36, gave Chara and Wideman roughing penalties and sent the captain to the box. Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot also wound up with a penalty for boarding.
The first Pittsburgh goal of the night, scored by Dupuis, came at 13:03, robbing Thomas of a potential second consecutive shutout.
Thomas got his turn in yet another rough moment with just 4:47 left, as players slid into the goal and others piled on top. Aaron Ward and Ryan Malone were both sent to the box for roughing.
The first full-out bout came with just 2:28 left, when Milan Lucic and Jarkko Ruutu dropped their gloves and squared off. The crowd was on their feet as the referees broke the fight up, but not before assigning the pair five-minute fighting penalties.
“[Lucic] is an individual to be reckoned with, and at 19, when he is showing the maturity he does and the presence that he has on the ice, it’s obviously an uplifting experience for us as a whole as a team,” said Ward, who admitted he would never want to fight his teammate. “Its good to see as an individual he is accomplishing as much as he has at this young age.”
Lucic, the hero of the moment, left the ice waving his arms and encouraging the home fans to cheer. He then headed down the tunnel to the locker room, high-fiving teammates and fans all the way.
"It was a good way to end the game and leave the fans on a cheering note," said Lucic. "Right after that...it was almost shaking in here, they were cheering so loud.
"The fans in Boston, you know they are like that -- they cheer hard."
Soon after, with just 2:11 left, David Krejci sealed the deal on the B's victory, making the score 5-1 as a puck deflected off his skate and into the net.
"It takes a huge amount of skill," said a smiling Krejci of the fortuitous, and completely accidental, placement of his foot in the path of the puck. "Not everyone can do that."
The win was a solid effort from the entire team, and Coach Julien was pleased with how the team has come together to support each other, especially in the wake of recent successes.
“I think it’s really that the guys have pulled together, and we are definitely playing with some emotion and with purpose,” he said. “I hear players on the bench reminding each other of certain things, whenever we get really sloppy the bench takes care of itself and it’s a good sign. The players are encouraged and believe in this hockey club and…these guys are extremely happy in the dressing room to remain together because they are a close knit group.
“Right now they have the opportunity to prove to everybody in this organization that they made the right decision by not moving anybody out.”
Tonight’s win seemed like just one more step in proving that, and there was a celebratory air in the locker room to match.
As the players filed out, they all agreed on one thing: Tonight felt good. Very good.
“Being on home ice, it feels good [to win] against two teams that are above us in the standings,” said Thomas. “They were good wins, [and] it feels good.”
NOTES: The Bruins pint streak of seven games (6-0-1) is their longest since the 2005-2006 season, during which they also had a seven-game streak...Their win streak of five games is their longest since the 2003-2004 season, when they had a six-game win streak...Marc Savard and Marco Sturm both reached career milestones during the game. Savard recorded his 400th assist, while Sturm recording his 200th goal...Additionally, Chuck Kobasew and Dennis Wideman reached season-high assist records for their careers. Kobasew has 15, while Wideman has 20...Zdeno Chara’s goal puts him into second place for goals scored by a defenseman. He is behind Mike Green of the Washington Captials, who has 16 goals...Vladimir Sobotka recieved the most recent hardhat award from previous winner Shawn Thornton.