Can Penguins’ Alex Galchenyuk build off his strong game in Boston? | TribLIVE.com
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Can Penguins’ Alex Galchenyuk build off his strong game in Boston?

Seth Rorabaugh
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AP
Prior to Thursday, Penguins forwards Alex Galchenyuk, right, and Evgeni Malkin had only played in four games together this season.

NEW YORK — The Penguins’ furious comeback attempt Monday against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden had plenty of contributors.

There was Nick Bjugstad, who collected his first goal of the season after injuries and futility had stymied him throughout October.

And rookie John Marino, a native of North Easton, Mass., who scored his first career goal on a breakaway out of the penalty box in front of several loved ones.

Don’t forget Dominik Kahun, coming off a healthy scratch, who netted the team’s first score of the contest by collecting his a goal in the third consecutive game he had participated in.

Ultimately, the Penguins surrendered the one-goal lead they had dug deep for and lost that 6-4, thanks to an opportunist effort by the Bruins top line and some iffy goaltending by the Penguins.

Off a missed shot by Marino that created a Boston-friendly outlet, the winning goal was scored by forward Brad Marchand, who fired a wrister from the left wing that clanked off the far post then bounced into the left shoulder of goaltender Tristan Jarry before fluttering into the cage with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in regulation.

Approximately 1:02 earlier, the Penguins nearly claimed the late lead.

With the score tied 4-4, a would-be go-head goal off a backhander from the slot by forward Alex Galchenyuk was waved off after officials ruled linemate Bryan Rust slid into goaltender Jaroslav Halak and dislodged the net before the puck entered the cage.

It wasn’t the only time Galchenyuk nearly turned the tide of the game. He almost sparked the Penguins’ comeback bid earlier in the second period. Taking a slick backhand pass from Evgeni Malkin at the center red line, Galchenyuk burst into the offensive zone like a comet, surging past defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara. Attacking the net, he lifted a backhander that Halak snuffed out with his left skate 1:43 into the period.

Galchenyuk’s only tangible contribution in the contest, on the scoresheet at least, came at 15:59 of the second. Backchecking to help Marino and defenseman Jack Johnson get a puck out of danger on their own end boards, Galchenyuk won a one-on-one battle with Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelyck in the left corner, turned his head up the rink and whipped a cross-ice pass to Malkin in front of the Boston bench.

Lugging the puck into the offensive zone, Malkin spun off a check from defenseman Connor Clifton and centered a backhand pass to the slot, where Rust had sped past Bruins forward Sean Kuraly, took the puck and snapped a wrister past Halak’s glove hand.

Galchenyuk recorded the secondary assist on the goal that tied the score 3-3, and it was arguably Galchenyuk’s most impactful game of consequence in a Penguins jersey.

Then again, there aren’t many candidates for that designation.

He has been limited to six games and three assists in his first season with the Penguins. An undisclosed injury, which was complicated by an allergic reaction, sidelined him nine games for most of October.

“He’s getting stronger with every game that he plays,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s been unfortunate because Alex hasn’t had, since the start of training camp, he hasn’t really been healthy for any consistent length of time. He’s healthy and feels strong right now with every game that he plays. With every game that he plays, I think he gets more comfortable, his conditioning improves, his timing improves. He had a pretty game the other night in Boston.”

Defenseman Marcus Pettersson’s pairing with Justin Schultz was grouped primarily with the Galchenyuk-Malkin-Rust line against Boston.

“He played well,” Pettersson said. “Him and (Malkin) like to play with each other. You can see the chemistry is there right away. With injuries we’ve had, they haven’t had a chance to play with each other a lot each other yet. It’s a great start for them. They look really good right now. They can only get better the more they play with each other.”

Galchenyuk, who was limited to one preseason game because of his health, is taking a patient approach to getting fully acclimated.

“It’s good to be back, back joining the guys,” said Galchenyuk, who was the primary return in an offseason trade that sent popular forward Phil Kessel to the Arizona Coyotes. “I’m just trying to get my game going, get in the rhythm and keep it going.”

While the specific nature of Galchenyuk’s injury never has been reported by the team, it was termed as being “lower body” and would suggest he was limited in his ability to skate during his convalescence. He said it has taken some time to rebuild his foot speed.

“Just everything in the game,” Galchenyuk said. “You can practice and prepare yourself only to a certain extent. The game is completely different. That’s something you can only learn and go through naturally.”

Evidence of the chemistry he has built with Malkin has been somewhat scant. Prior to playing Boston, their lone “highlight” together came on an unsuccessful two-on-one rush during a home preseason contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sept. 19.

Regardless, there is optimism he has established an on-ice connection with the franchise center.

“He’s obviously a highly skilled player who can make a lot of things happen with the puck,” Rust said. “With him and (Malkin), anytime they have the puck in their hands and can be on the offense, that gives us the advantage.”

That said, Galchenyuk realizes he needs to offer more than a single secondary assist and a handful of sharp passes to justify a place next to Malkin.

“We haven’t proved anything together yet,” Galchenyuk said. “We still haven’t done it in (many games). We’re excited for the chance to keep building our chemistry and see what we can do.”

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
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