Fleury, Staal lead Penguins past Bruins finally
Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis celebrates a goal with teammates Paul Martin, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz in the second period of Saturday's game against the Bruins at TD Garden in Boston.
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BOSTON -- The Penguins had tried this before, you know.
Fact is, they had made a habit of building two-goal leads against Boston this season.
Made a habit of squandering them, too.
And so it was again Saturday at TD Garden, when their 2-0 advantage melted into a 2-2 tie in a 13-second span of the second period.
At that point, their meetings with the Bruins didn't seem to be a season series so much as they were a recurring nightmare.
"You don't want to say, 'Here we go again,' " winger Mike Rupp said.
The Penguins could have. Maybe should have, considering how their previous games with Boston had unraveled.
Not this time, though.
Those two goals were the only ones the Bruins got, and the Penguins claimed a 3-2 victory after Jordan Staal scored on a close-range backhander at 3:25 of the third period.
The victory raised their record without center Sidney Crosby, who is recovering from a concussion, to 2-2-1 and their overall mark to 28-14-4. It left them one point behind first-place Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference.
Just as important, it exorcised any demons conjured by those earlier losses to the Bruins, who began the day with a 9-0 edge on the Penguins in third-period goals.
"It's 9-1 now," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said, smiling.
Yeah, in large part because of Fleury. Again.
He finished with 44 saves -- 20 of those in the final period -- and was a difference-maker, as he has been so often the past couple months.
"I'd say this is some of the best hockey I've seen him play for a long stretch," coach Dan Bylsma said.
Fleury was beaten by a Dennis Seidenberg slap shot when Daniel Paille of the Bruins gave him no chance to see the puck and, 13 seconds later, by a Michael Ryder wrist shot that came through the legs of Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek.
"Fleury sees the puck most of the time and makes that save," Ryder said, "so I was just trying to use the defenseman as a screen.
So did the timeout Bylsma called immediately, because it prevented the Penguins from losing their focus or composure in the wake of those goals.
"Dan called a timeout and gave guys time to splash some water on their face, calm down, take a deep breath," Fleury said.
Both of the Bruins' previous comebacks had occurred in the final period. Several Penguins suggested that having Boston surge earlier this time actually worked in their favor.
"We felt like we made two mistakes, and they ended up in the back of our net," left winger Matt Cooke said. "We'd played a pretty good game up to that point.
"We gave them what they got. When you're in that situation, it's pretty easy to correct."
Which the Penguins did.
The advantage they built when Chris Kunitz scored at 10:57 of the first and Pascal Dupuis banked a shot off Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and into the net 41 seconds into the middle period was gone, but their equilibrium apparently was intact.
"We didn't have the same feeling we had during the two games they came back," Dupuis said. "The feeling on the bench was that we were going to stick with it and win that game."
Staal came through with the goal they needed to make that happen.
"It wasn't pretty," he said. "Just getting to the net. I think we needed one like that. We did a decent job of getting in front of the net."
So did Boston, which is part of the reason Fleury stayed so busy during the final 20 minutes. But despite the Penguins' late breakdowns in the other Boston games this season, Fleury said he wasn't concerned about how that last period would play out.
"Not worried," he said. "Excited. They kept coming, and the crowd was loud. Guys were playing hard in front.
"It was a fun period to play."
And a satisfying end to a Boston game. Finally.
First Published January 16, 2011 12:00 am