Penguins Kris Letang, right, celebrates Chris Kunitz's goal in the second period against the Bruins at Consol Energy Center.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This Penguins’ 3-2 victory against Boston at Consol Energy Center Wednesday night does not make up for what the Bruins did to the Penguins in the Eastern Conference final this spring, of course.
The stakes weren’t as high as they were in the postseason, and neither was the intensity.
But it wasn’t really all that far from it, either.
Certainly, it was not just another autumn Wednesday at the rink.
“As close (to the playoffs) as you can be in the regular season,” Penguins winger Jussi Jokinen said.
Jokinen scored what proved to be the game-winner at 17:58 of the third period, stealing the puck from Boston’s Jordan Caron in the Bruins’ end, then moving toward the net before burying a high shot behind goalie Tuukka Rask.
“I read that (Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk) was going to hit their centerman (with a pass) and I was able to get the puck,” Jokinen said. “I had lots of time and was able to get a good shot.”
Jokinen’s goal, his sixth of the season, gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead with just over two minutes remaining in regulation.
For some opponents, that would have been a death blow.
For the Bruins, it was just an upgraded challenge.
Boston could teach sled dogs a thing or two about tenacity, and to a man, the Penguins (9-4) said they recognized the perils of relaxing when they went ahead by two. Never even thought about doing it.
“We know they’re a good team that can come back in games,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “They’ve done it before, and there was still a lot of time.”
Boston needed just 19 seconds of it to make it a one-goal game, as Penguins alum Jarome Iginla hammered a slap shot past Fleury from just inside the blue line.
“I was talking to him during the game, a little bit, because he didn’t score,” Fleury said, smiling. “Then he got me.”
But that was the last time the Bruins got anything by Fleury, who finished with 21 saves.
Rask, meanwhile, allowed three goals, which is a 50 percent increase over the total the Penguins manufactured against him during four games in the Eastern final.
Although both goaltenders played well, Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis turned in probably the most memorable performance of the game.
Not when he deftly deflected a Brooks Orpik pass to Brandon Sutter to make the Penguins’ second goal possible – “That was nice,” said linemate Sidney Crosby. “Hope he saves a few more of those.” – but when he did a little dental work on himself.
After being struck in the face by teammate Kris Letang’s stick, he extracted a tooth while sitting on the bench preparing for his next shift.
“I tried a second one, too, but it’s glued there,” Dupuis said.
Which was quite all right with Crosby.
“(The tooth Dupuis removed) was part of a bridge, so I don’t think it hurt that much,” Crosby said. “But I saw a steel rod in his tooth when it came out.
“That’s not something you see every day. Kind of funny, kind of gross. Not something you see too often. I said, ‘Hurry up, you’re grossing me out. Just get rid of it.’ ”
While Dupuis ditched a tooth, Sutter shed a season-long slump.
After failing to score in the first 12 games, he got the goal that put the Penguins in front to stay at 11:00 of the third period, pulling in the puck Dupuis directed to him and beating Rask with a shot high on the stick side from inside the right circle.
“It’s nice to get that monkey off the back, get that first one,” Sutter said. “It was a good one for us. Good timing of it, too.”
That goal gave the Penguins a lead, and the one Jokinen scored provided some breathing room. But it wasn’t until the final seconds of play, when Fleury denied Bruins center David Krejci that the victory was secure.
The save invited comparisons to one Fleury made on Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom as time expired in Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup final, but Fleury was quick to point out that the two stops came in dramatically different situations.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean that the stop on Krejci was any less satisfying.
“It was good just to make the save,” Fleury said. “And finally get the win.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG First Published October 30, 2013 10:44 PM
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