Pens down Bruins, secure East's top seed
BOSTON — Jarome Iginla likes what he has not heard.
That would be one word about the Stanley Cup playoffs from his Penguins teammates.
That was the case Saturday afternoon after a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden secured the top seed through the Eastern Conference portion of the postseason tournament.
The road to the Stanley Cup Final will go through Consol Energy Center.
“We've just been so focused on playing and trying to keep going and playing well and just keeping this feeling going that we haven't really talked about a lot of those things or even talked a lot about the playoffs,” Iginla said.
“It's literally just been who we're playing, what we're going to do and enjoy that part. It's kind of fun. It's kind of nice not to look too far ahead. Sometimes, I do look too far ahead, and this year, since coming, it's just been day to day.
“A big part of it is the guys, the way the locker room is.”
A big part of the narrative for the Penguins — on another winning streak, this one six games — is what they have done without several key players in their locker room.
Captain Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) missed an eighth consecutive game.
The Penguins (34-10-0, 68 points) are 6-2-0 without him and 14-2-0 without their other former MVP center, Evgeni Malkin, who missed a third straight game.
This remarkable run — 21 wins in 23 games — has happened with Crosby and Malkin in the lineup for only five of those contests.
Malkin (right shoulder) had an individual workout before this win over the Bruins, coach Dan Bylsma said. Malkin remains day to day.
Defenseman Paul Martin (broken thumb) also was part of that on-ice workout, and Bylsma said Martin is the closest among injured Penguins to playing before the playoffs begin, no sooner than May 1.
Crosby and right winger James Neal (concussion) worked out in Pittsburgh, Bylsma said.
Martin has not played since March 28, Neal dating to April 9.
“Four guys that if we had a full season would have been in the All-Star Game,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “They've been out. (Defenseman Kris Letang) was out for a while, and we had a lot of new guys we are trying to get acclimated to the system.
“So, it wasn't easy.”
The Penguins have just made it look that way, sweeping three games from the Bruins to go 11-1-0 against clubs vying for the second and third Eastern seeds.
They took several body blows from the Bruins, who claimed an early lead near the midpoint of the opening period on left winger Brad Marchand's 17th goal. Boston owned a 13-5 shots advantage after 20 minutes.
However, one of those new guys to whom Orpik referred, forward Jussi Jokinen, pulled the Penguins even with his 10th goal early in the second period.
Iginla, whom the Bruins coveted and general manager Peter Chiarelli said he thought was acquired before the Penguins edged in late to swing a deal with Calgary, scored on the power play early in the third.
Iginla's 12th marker and third with the Penguins provided a lead that was insured by Letang's fifth goal, also on a power play, about four minutes later.
Iginla was booed throughout by Boston fans, and his first-period fight with Bruins right winger Nathan Horton will not endear him to The Olde Towne faithful because Horton was injured (shoulder) and did not return.
“I expected a few boos and stuff, and that's fair,” Iginla said.
“It was just a physical, intense start. They were ready to play. We were ready, but we didn't have a lot of intensity.
“Horton is a tough competitor. It was just kind of one of those things.”
The next one of those things for the Penguins is winning four playoff games, the mantra from general manager Ray Shero since the NHL lockout ended in January.
The Penguins have lost three straight playoff series to lower-seeded opponents.
They will face only lower-seeded opponents until the Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, they are 21-3-0 against Eastern clubs that were in the playoff field before games played Saturday.
“Nobody really talks about down the road,” Iginla said. “You hear the cliché ‘one step at a time' or whatever, but that's really been our thing.”