Bruins control tempo, silence Penguins' high-powered offense to take Game 1
Coach Dan Bylsma is preaching patience.
Have some, and his Penguins should eventually get the best of the Boston Bruins.
That will have to work for the remainder of the Eastern Conference final.
A 3-0 victory by the Bruins on Saturday night swiped home-ice advantage from the Penguins.
Game 2 is at Consol Energy Center on Monday night.
“That's the playoffs. If we score a couple goals, we're not talking about that,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “We're talking about the chances we created, how we did a lot of good things. At the end of the day, you've got to execute. At the end of the day, it's going to be physical.”
The early advantage in this series belongs to Boston because of its structure — and goalie Tuukka Rask, who finished with 29 saves.
“Sometimes you get breaks. Sometimes you don't,” said Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 27 of 30 shots. “Today the first deflected in, and the second was a kind of weird goal. Sometimes that's what happens.
“It seems to me it was more of a rush game. We don't want to play like that. We want to play in their zone and put pressure on their ‘D' and put the pucks behind them and grind from there.”
The Bruins, outplayed through two periods, opened the final frame ferocious on the forecheck.
They turned a one-goal lead into a three-goal cushion by outworking the Penguins — in the defensive zone on center David Krejci's goal, in the neutral zone on a goal by winger Nathan Horton — and forcing turnovers.
“Once we got down a couple goals, we started forcing plays through the neutral zone,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “That's probably where they're the best — the neutral zone — at creating turnovers.”
Once ahead 3-0, the Bruins went to a 1-3-1 trap that prevented the Penguins from stretch passes and stymied an offensive attack that had been blistering in the postseason.
“We hit a lot of posts. We had good chances where, on other nights, they go in,” said winger Jarome Iginla. “We didn't execute on a few plays or finish on a few others. In the third, we let it get away from us. We had plenty of scoring chances and chances to get momentum swings going, but unfortunately we didn't get it done.”
The Penguins had averaged 4.27 goals in 11 previous playoff games, and they had not been blanked in 96 games overall.
They had not been blanked in the postseason since April 27, 2011, a 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of Round 1.
That Penguins squad was without centers Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and winger Matt Cooke.
This Penguins squad finished Game 1 without Cooke, who received a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct for his hit on Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid in the second period.
Cooke drove McQuaid into the end-zone boards, though video replays of the sequence showed McQuaid looking over his shoulder as Cooke approached.
“It's playoffs, conference finals, so you expect it to be hard and chippy,” Vokoun said.
All hits are reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety. Cooke has not been suspended since missing the final 17 games — including the entire first round of the playoffs — in 2011. However, he has received multiple suspensions, though not for a controversial hit on Bruins center Marc Savard in March 2010.
That hit convinced NHL general managers to draft stricter rules for blindside hits.
Hitting often is credited for the Bruins' success, but the Penguins believe their opponent is a master at structural defensive hockey.
The Bruins justified that belief in the third period, limiting the Penguins to seven shots.
The Penguins' best player throughout Game 1 was Malkin, but even he could not best Rask on five shots over the first two periods.
Malkin was in the penalty box serving a major penalty to start the third period for a fight with Bruins center Patrice Bergeron at the end of the second period.
Those two players actually were unavailable for seven minutes and 10 seconds to start the third period.
Without Malkin, the Penguins lacked a looming threat — in part because Crosby did not have his strongest performance.
Matched up against Bergeron, the NHL's reigning top defensive forward, Crosby struggled to create after his first shift.
“At 1-0, we were still pretty comfortable with the game,” Crosby said. “There's no guarantees, especially at this point of the playoffs. You're playing a pretty good hockey team, so it's up to us to make sure we're playing at our best. We did a lot of good things. We made a couple mistakes, and they ended up in our net, but we did do a lot of things that could have had a much different result very easily.”
Crosby lost a majority of faceoffs (11 of 17), as did the Penguins (32 of 48). That might not change, as the Bruins are a top faceoff squad.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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