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PITTSBURGH -- In a series filled with stars, Boston Bruins center David Krejci shined brightest during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Dwarfed in attention by the shining lights in the Pittsburgh Penguins' lineup as well as the high profiles of a few of his own teammates, Krejci provided another compelling argument to be included among the game's elite talents, scoring Boston's first two goals Saturday in a shocking 3-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Krejci now has a Stanley Cup Playoff-best 19 points; his seven goals are tied for second behind the eight by Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks. Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis also have seven goals.
Krejci has 45 points in his past 45 playoff games.
Nathan Horton, who assisted on both of Krejci's goals, scored the third and Tuukka Rask made 29 saves for his first playoff shutout as the Bruins seized home-ice advantage in this best-of-7 series. Game 2 is here Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Krejci has largely flown under the radar for much of his NHL career. His performance this spring is threatening to change that.
"They should, he's leading the playoffs in scoring," Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg told NHL.com when asked if people have taken notice of Krejci. "He's been doing it for a while now. I don't want to say 'under the radar' because he has been performing unbelievably over the past few years, But he just does it in a quiet style, I guess."
Krejci wasn't quiet Saturday, allowing the Bruins to survive a rocky start and take the lead against the run of play by scoring 8:23 into the game on Boston's third shot of the game. He took a pass in the high slot from Nathan Horton and hesitated an instant as Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin slid to the ice to block the potential shot. Instead, Krejci's low shot ticked off the top of Martin's skate and changed direction just enough to pinball through the five-hole of goaltender Tomas Vokoun and trickle across the goal line.
The goal quieted the sellout crowd of 18,628 that had been roaring from the start as the Penguins carried play.
"I think they had a pretty good start and they had some good chances," Krejci said. "We were getting [into] some troubles. We couldn’t get the puck deep, we couldn’t get the forecheck going. After we scored the first goal, it kind of turned around and we started playing in their zone a little more. In the second and third period, we played the way we play."
Even when the night was over and Krejci had two goals and Pittsburgh's coterie of stars had none, Krejci wasn't ready to lump himself into the elite category occupied by players like Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
"Those guys, I think they're the best players in the world at this moment," Krejci said. "There's no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don't have guys like that. We have a team."
That team came together to shut down a Pittsburgh team that averaged 4.27 goals through its first 12 games during this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was the first shutout against the Penguins in 96 games since the Toronto Maple Leafs did it on Feb. 1, 2012. Pittsburgh hadn't been blanked in a playoff game since a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of their first-round series in 2011.
It was also Boston's first victory in seven games against the Penguins, and the first by the Bruins against Pittsburgh in the playoffs since Game 2 of the 1991 Wales Conference Final. Pittsburgh won the next four games on the way to its first Stanley Cup, then swept the Bruins in the same round the following year before sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in the Final for back-to-back championships.
Like those teams, these Penguins have used a high-octane offense to wear down the opposition. But on this night it was Boston's defense and Rask's goaltending that ruled the ice, complemented perfectly by the Bruins' opportunistic offense.
"They played the way we expected," said Vokoun, who made 27 saves. "I think they executed their game plan better than we did."
Yet the Penguins felt they were right there throughout the game -- they hit at least three posts and dominated the first period -- and that success can be had against this Boston team.
"That's the playoffs, I think if we score a couple goals, we're not talking about that," Crosby said. "We're talking about the chances we created; we did a lot of good things. At the end of the day you've got to execute and at the end of the day it's going to be physical. We expect that and that's the way this series is going to go."
The game became more physical and heated in the second period, beginning when Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke hit Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid behind the Boston net 92 seconds into the second period. McQuaid left the game briefly, but returned later in the period.
Cooke was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for checking from behind, but Boston only got a three-minute power play after Chris Kelly was assessed a minor penalty for roughing for going after Cooke after the hit.
That hit not only ramped up Boston's offense -- the Bruins had four of their 10 second-period shots on the power play -- but it also turned up the heat on a game that had been played at a low boil to that point.
The final seconds of the second period were a perfect illustration. With 30 seconds remaining, Boston forward Brad Marchand took a minor penalty for boarding James Neal in front of the Pittsburgh bench. At the end of the period, a nasty scrum around Rask -- started by Zdeno Chara and Crosby -- moved toward center ice and ended with Pittsburgh star center Evgeni Malkin and Boston stalwart Patrice Bergeron exchanging punches at center ice before falling to the ice in a heap.
"This is playoff hockey," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Those things are going to happen. You don't whine or complain about it, you just deal with it. What we had to deal with tonight was winning a hockey game. That's all that mattered.
"Whichever way we took at the end of the night, that's all that mattered."
|David Krejci Tripping against Evgeni Malkin|
|Sidney Crosby Interference against Patrice Bergeron|
|Patrice Bergeron Hooking against Evgeni Malkin|
|Brooks Orpik Interference against Chris Kelly|
|Matt Cooke Checking from behind (maj) against Adam McQuaid|
|Chris Kelly Roughing against Matt Cooke|
|Matt Cooke Game misconduct|
|Nathan Horton Slashing against Evgeni Malkin|
|Brad Marchand Boarding against James Neal|
|Rich Peverley Unsportsmanlike conduct against Chris Kunitz|
|Chris Kunitz Unsportsmanlike conduct against Rich Peverley|
|Patrice Bergeron Fighting (maj) against Evgeni Malkin|
|Evgeni Malkin Fighting (maj) against Patrice Bergeron|
|Sidney Crosby Slashing against Tyler Seguin|
|SA: 29||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 29||EV: 19 - 19|
|PIM: 0||PP: 9 - 9|
|SV%: 1.000||SH: 1 - 1|
|SA: 30||TOI: 60:00|
|Saves: 27||EV: 20 - 23|
|PIM: 0||PP: 4 - 4|
|SV%: .900||SH: 3 - 3|