The Penguins insisted they never got frustrated Tuesday night.
That doesn't mean they shouldn't have.
After all, for most of the first 53 minutes of their game against Boston, the Bruins had stymied them repeatedly, playing with patience and discipline.
And, perhaps most important, with a two-goal lead.
But the Penguins persisted and manufactured three goals in the final six minutes and 18 seconds of regulation to pull out a 3-2 victory against the Bruins at Consol Energy Center.
"It was a good finish for us," said center Brandon Sutter, who scored the final two goals. "For the most part, we played a pretty good game.
"We just stuck with what we wanted to do. To get a couple late is a good feeling, especially against a team like that that's good defensively. They don't give you much."
Almost nothing, most of the time. Although Boston could not withstand the Penguins' late surge, for most of the evening, it had played the composed, stingy defensive style that makes it one of the NHL's top clubs.
"They were pretty good at keeping us outside," said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, who earned an assist for the sixth game in a row, a personal-best. "They don't allowed the second scoring chance, but we stuck with it."
The victory extended the Penguins' winning streak to six games and allowed them to pull even with Montreal for first place in the East, one point ahead of Boston.
They won even though center Sidney Crosby, who spent much of his evening in the company of Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, was held without a point for the first time in nine games.
Right winger James Neal failed to score a goal for the first time in five games, but did earn an assist.
The Penguins played without center Evgeni Malkin, who suffered an unspecified injury Saturday in Toronto, for the second consecutive game.
His absence was particularly significant in this game because it allowed Bruins coach Claude Julien to send out Chara almost every time Crosby stepped onto the ice.
Chara not only made life difficult for Crosby, but gave Boston a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 4:45 of the opening period, when he got a cross-ice pass from Dennis Seidenberg and hammered a slap shot past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the right point.
Fleury was screened by Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron.
Tyler Seguin made it 2-0 at 13:30, as he got free just below the left hash mark and beat Fleury after taking a feed from Bergeron.
The Penguins did not waver and had a strong second period, but weren't able to generate a goal.
Still, they knew they had a number of factors working in their favor -- Boston had played in Ottawa Monday night, when the Penguins were off, and No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask was given the evening off -- and felt they might be able to exploit them eventually.
"The second period, we played really well," Letang said. "We got to our game and we tired them out."
Their effort was rewarded when Chris Kunitz spoiled backup goalie Anton Khudobin's bid for his second career shutout at 13:42 of the third, as Letang got the puck to him at the right dot and Kunitz drove a shot past Khudobin for his 18th of the season.
"It took almost 35 shots to get one past their goalie, but I think it's a great learning step for us, to be able to play 55 minutes without getting a goal and then just keep coming and be able to get three quick ones and turn the tide of the game," Kunitz said.
The Penguins have not been held without a goal since Feb. 1, 2012, at Toronto or at home since March 25, 2011, and they tied the score less than a minute later. At 14:33, Neal gave the puck to Sutter, who threw it past Khudobin from inside the right circle for his seventh of the season.
But not his last -- or most important -- goal of the period.
That came at 17:57, when Sutter picked off a Seidenberg pass at the left point in the Boston end, then carried the puck to the left dot before launching it past Khudobin for the winner.
"I knew we had another forward kind of high, so I knew I could maybe take a chance on it," Sutter said, "and it just kind of worked out."
Yeah, kind of. Pretty much the way the entire game for did for the Penguins. Eventually.
"For us to squeeze it out in the last few minutes is huge," Sutter said. "We did a lot of things right tonight."
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published March 13, 2013 4:00 AM