The Bruins nailed down their third consecutive victory on a Craig Smith overtime goal with 10.9 seconds left in the extra session that gave the B’s a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Garden.
But the night did have its concerning moments.
Jake DeBrusk was lost in the first period with what was termed a lower body injury by coach Bruce Cassidy, who had no further update yet. And in the third period, it appeared as though they might lose their standout goalie Tuukka Rask after he was seen grabbing his right hip after a Jason Zucker goal that cut the B’s two-goal lead in half.
Rask got up very slowly and eventually was able to shake it off and stay in the game. And though he gave up the equalizer to Kasperi Kapanen with 3:16 left in regulation, he was once again terrific in OT.
Rask (28 saves) very well may gotten a piece of Evgeni Malkin’s clean breakaway attempt that hit the crossbar. Then the Pens took advantage of a Bruin miscue high in the Pittsburgh zone to break out on a 3-on-0, but Rask was able to get his stick on Malkin’s pass attempt to Kris Letang, thwarting the glittering chance.
“Our players went over and asked him (if he was OK after the Zucker goal),” said Cassidy. “We would have called a timeout if need be, or replaced him if we really had to. But he said he was OK. He clearly looked good in overtime. Great play with the poke check on the 3-on-0. Good for him. I thought he battled hard tonight. He was excellent.”
Rask was not one of the players brought in for the Zoom press conference after the game.
Though the B’s tongues were wagging by the end of the game, they got off to a good start.
Connor Clifton took the first of a whopping six minors for the B’s in the first period, but the B’s made it work in their favor.
Sidney Crosby’s pass through the neutral zone went off Jared McCann’s stick and went right to Charlie McAvoy, who one-timed it back up the ice to Brad Marchand for one of the Bruin’s patented shorthanded rushes on his off wing. He picked up Patrice Bergeron as the trailer but, instead of passing, Marchand cut to the middle of the ice and beat goalie Tristan Jarry with a hard wrister from the middle of the slot at 7:41.
The shorty put Marchand’s franchise record at 28 man-down goals for his career .
The Penguins got their third straight power-play early in the third when Bergeron was called for a stick foul. They B’s killed it off again and were surely wondering when they were going to get their call, especially after Jake Guentzel got away with taking a pretty straight-line run at Rask in the first period.
Well, they didn’t have to wait to get theirs – and they got two calls in a matter of 36 seconds. First Chad Ruhwedel went off (yet another penalty drawn by Trent Frederic), followed by Tanev, giving the B’s a 5-on-3 for 1:24. They took advantage of it to double the lead at 8:58. Operating down low on the right side, Marchand zipped a perfect pass to the goal mouth for Nick Ritchie, who had parked himself in front for the tap-in to make it 2-0.
But as the penalties mounted, the Pens started to spend more and more time in the B’s zone and the B’s looked gassed at times in the late in the second and into the third.
“I don’t know. It seemed like every time they went down, we were in the box,” said Cassidy. “We have to look at it closer. It’s not how we play, typically. So a little unusual for us to have to kill that many minor penalties. I don’t know if that’s the veteran Pittsburgh effect on the officials or they were all good calls. Who knows?..You kill six penalties, you’re down a body up front, they have a ral good power-play, then you mix in one or two shifts where you’re stuck in your end and that’s where the fatigue came in.”
First Zucker scored seconds after Ritchie got out of the box midway through the third and then Kapanen, who was stopped by Rask on a partial breakaway a few minutes earlier, swooped in off the right wing to tuck the equalizer under Rask’s right pad for the equalizer.
But all’s well that ends well.
After the B’s survived a couple of near-disasters in OT, Smith picked a puck out of neutral zone scrum and took off on a 2-on-1 with David Krejci. He dished it to Krejci before getting the return pass and burying the winner past Jarry.