Penguins 'powerless' in loss to Bruins at Consol
Centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin avoided serious injuries.
Otherwise, nothing went right for the Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Monday in a 3-1 loss to the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
"Right now," defenseman Matt Niskanen said, "Boston is probably the best team in the league."
The Bruins won their 14th game in 15 attempts while the Penguins' maddening problems with the 5-on-3 power play contributed to the setback, which has pulled Boston within a point of the Penguins for the Eastern Conference's top spot.
First, the good news: Crosby and Malkin did not sustain serious injuries in the third period when the threat of such a thing looked very real. Crosby collided with left wing Chris Kunitz in the neutral zone with about 13 minutes remaining in the final period. Crosby's right knee absorbed the brunt of the hit, as Kunitz crashed into Crosby while both players were skating at close to top speed.
Crosby dragged himself to the bench, his right knee clearly in pain. But he did not miss a shift and said following the game that it was just a "stinger."
Malkin was leveled by Boston left wing Daniel Paille about two minutes later. While carrying the puck down the right wing boards, Malkin attempted to avoid the hit, but Paille's helmet banged off Malkin's face. Malkin stayed on the ice for almost a minute and then went to the locker room briefly before returning to finish the third period.
The Penguins' stars were roughed up, and so too was the team's pride. Boston outclassed the Penguins during most of the evening, using a physical brand of hockey to control the game by winning puck battles in front of the goaltenders.
"I thought they played very well," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "They dictated."
Benoit Pouliot and Gregory Campbell gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the second period, but the Penguins were handed a golden opportunity to put a dent into the advantage. Boston was penalized twice during the same sequence, giving the Penguins a two-man advantage for two minutes.
They never came close to beating Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who stopped 45 of 46 shots on the evening.
"We're thinking too much," said Kunitz, who was in front of the net during both two-man advantages, including an unsuccessful bid that lasted 70 seconds in the first period.
"You have to score there. It changes the momentum of the game. It hasn't been pretty for us lately. We study stuff. We talk about doing things. And then we don't go out and execute. It kills momentum. You can't do that if you want to beat one of the best teams in hockey."
The Penguins finally showed signs of life in the final 10 minutes and registered a goal when center Joe Vitale set up left wing Matt Cooke's sixth goal.
"Too little, too late," Niskanen said.
This night belonged to the Bruins, who dominated the opening two periods at even strength and essentially put the game away when center Tyler Seguin beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury early in the third period on a 2-on-1.
The Penguins acknowledge that Boston is playing terrific hockey, but were disappointed with their own play. Aside from the power-play issues, the Penguins looked sloppy throughout. They finished with seven giveaways and misfired on 10 shot attempts.
"Just not good," Niskanen said. "We never gave ourselves a chance."
Bruins, 1-0 (2:57): C Gregory Campbell chipped a backhand shot toward the net and Penguins G Marc-Andre Fleury could not glove the fluttering puck. Campbell won a battle for position with Penguins RW Craig Adams to receive a behind-the-net pass from Bruins LW Daniel Paille.
Bruins, 2-0 (7:18): LW Benoit Pouliot whipped a shot past Fleury after receiving a deft feed from Bruins C Rich Peverley, who from was in the neutral zone when he intercepted a breakout pass attempt by Penguins D Brooks Orpik.
Bruins, 3-0 (1:07): C Patrice Bergeron slipped a pass through D Matt Niskanen on a 2-on-1 and C Tyler Seguin made no mistake, ripping a one-timer past Fleury, just inside the post to Fleury's stick side. Penguins, 3-1 (10:54): LW Matt Cooke tapped a puck behind Bruins G Tim Thomas after taking a pass from Penguins C Joe Vitale, who carried the puck toward the net as Cooke skated to the front of the crease.