Thomas too tough: Penguins lose as Boston kills off two 5-on-3s
December 6, 2011 10:00 AM
Penguins' Sidney Crosby makes his way back to the bench in pain after colliding with teammate Chris Kunitz in the third period.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The NHL's Board of Governors agreed on a realignment plan for the 2012-13 season Monday night, and the news wasn't good for the Penguins.
Or for 28 other NHL teams, for that matter.
Because when the Governors finally agreed on a four-conference set-up, Boston still was part of it.
And that doesn't bode well for any other team in the league.
Not if they're hoping tog make a run at a Stanley Cup in the spring, anyway.
The Bruins, who are on a 14-0-1 run, beat the Penguins, 3-1, Monday night at Consol Energy Center, with perhaps the most efficient, opportunistic effort the Penguins have faced this season.
"That's a very good hockey team," Penguins winger Steve Sullivan said. "They do most things right."
Killing penalties is what the Bruins did best of all in this game. The Penguins had two extended five-on-three advantages in the second period -- one lasting 70 seconds, the other 120 -- and got nothing to show for it except six shots on goalie Tim Thomas and a whole lot of frustration.
"We had a couple of good looks, but [Thomas] made some good saves," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "There were some rebounds laying around that we didn't get sticks on.
"When you're talking about five-on-three [situations], a lot of times it's executing and finishing plays. You always kind of look to that as a big point in the game, whether you score or don't. Unfortunately, we weren't able to."
The loss was the first in regulation for the Penguins (16-8-4) in their past nine home games but, bad as the game was for them, it could have been infinitely worse.
With a little more than 13 minutes left in the third period, Crosby and linemate Chris Kunitz collided violently in the neutral zone. Although they were shaken up and made their way slowly to the bench, both returned to the game a few minutes later. Crosby said afterward that he was not injured.
By the time those two got back on the ice, Evgeni Malkin had gone to the dressing room after a head-to-head hit from Daniel Paille of the Bruins, who was wearing a protective cage on his helmet. Malkin, whose upper lip was gashed, was back on the ice a few minutes later.
Even if the Penguins didn't add to their injured list, it's still pretty crowded in their training room these days.
They faced the Bruins without three of their top six defensemen -- Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Deryk Engelland -- and two guys directly behind them on the depth chart, Brian Strait and Ben Lovejoy, have been on injured reserve for weeks.
"There's some injuries back there and at this point, that's probably their weakest link," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They know that and everybody else does, too."
Gregory Campbell put Boston in front to stay at 2:57 of the second period, when he fought past Craig Adams and chipped the puck past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 1-0.
The Bruins survived their first two-man disadvantage a few minutes later -- thanks, in part, to a sensational stop by Thomas on Kunitz from the front lip of the crease -- and Boston turned a Penguins giveaway into its second goal at 7:18.
Rich Peverley intercepted a Brooks Orpik pass in the neutral zone, and the Bruins launched an immediate counterattack that ended when Benoit Pouliot threw a shot over Fleury's glove to make it 2-0.
The second five-on-three situation, this one lasting two minutes, came when Peverley and Pouliot were sent off for hooking and goalie interference at 16:06.
The Penguins generated a couple of quality chances while those two were off -- Sullivan couldn't quite got to a loose puck while facing a mostly open net and, seconds later, Thomas made a quality glove stop on Malkin from the slot -- but couldn't manufacture a goal that would have gotten them back in the game.
"You have to give them credit for doing a good job," Sullivan said. "And we probably didn't execute as well as we wanted to."
The Bruins rubbed it in with a power-play goal by Tyler Seguin 67 seconds into the final period, the first man-advantage goal given up by the Penguins in 10 home games.
The Penguins finally solved Thomas at 10:54, when Matt Cooke steered in a feed from Joe Vitale for his sixth of the season and first in 12 games. That was the only one of their 45 shots to elude him, however, and Boston still has not lost in regulation since Oct. 29.
"You don't get that by accident," Vitale said. "That's a great record. You do that by playing the right way."