The stagnant Bruins offense didn’t exactly explode, but the struggling B’s got just enough off their sticks and a strong start from rookie Daniel Vladar (34 saves) in net at PPG Paints Arena to post a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the young netminder’s first NHL start on Tuesday night.
It was a timely performance for both Vladar and the B’s, who snapped a two-game losing streak and have rarely given their goaltenders much help in the month of March. Cool and controlled during the game, the affable Czech was not afraid to let his emotions show after it.
“I’m just the happiest guy in the world right now,” said Vladar. “It was always my dream to play in NHL and I got an opportunity and I won, so there hasn’t been a better day for me hockey-wise. I really appreciate that the coaches gave me a chance. It was a great team effort.”
Vladar wasn’t the only rookie to contribute to the victory.
Trent Frederic broke a 1-1 tie at 7:07 of the third period with the rarest of Black and Gold birds — a five-on-five goal. With the B’s starting a line change, Patrice Bergeron won a puck behind the Penguins net and got it to Jakub Zboril at the left point. Frederic, who’d just come on the ice for Brad Marchand, took a pass high in the offensive zone and beat Casey DeSmith on a long range wrist shot through a David Pastrnak screen.
It was Frederic’s fourth of the year and the B’s first five-on-five goal in three games.
“We needed it. It’s been discussed. Everyone has to pitch in. Great job by Pasta in front of the net. You need the net presence,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “Good play by Zboril on the blue line. I think he missed a few plays earlier but stayed with it and found his game eventually. He made a nice play to Freddy high. And good for Freddy to shoot. We’ve been reticent to do that, get pucks on net. It doesn’t always have to be the perfect goal … sometimes you’ve got to get those greasy ones and we certainly needed it. It’s one. We’re certainly searching for more, but we’ll take this one. It got us two points and hopefully we’ll build on it in Buffalo.”
For the second time in as many nights, the B’s took a 1-0 lead on a power play within the first four minutes of the game.
Pastrnak took a boarding penalty on the first shift of the game, but Evgeni Malkin nullified the second half of it when he took a holding penalty on Jarred Tinordi.
And it was on the shortened power play that the B’s took the lead off the rush at 3:20. Matt Grzelcyk made a nice indirect pass up to Marchand on the left wing. Marchand then hit Pastrnak, who blew past defenseman Brian Dumoulin and tucked a pretty backhander through the pads of DeSmith.
Then midway through the first, Vladar made an eye-popping, highlight-reel save. A rebound went to Colton Sceviour on the left side of the net and the Penguin had nearly an empty cage at which to shoot. Vladar, however, robbed him with the inside of his paddle to preserve the B’s lead at that point.
Vladar himself shrugged it off (“A lucky save,” he said, “You can’t practice those.”), but it meant plenty to his teammates.
“Once he did that, I knew he was locked in,” said Frederic of his former Providence teammate. “We knew we had to get the win for him. He’s really worked hard up to this point.”
But the B’s could not make it out of the period without some damage done. Pastrnak had been called for his second penalty of the game, a phantom tripping call on Dumoulin. The Pens did not score on the power play, but they did so in the chaotic seconds after Pastrnak left the box.
Zboril coughed up the puck to Kasperi Kapanen in the middle of the ice just inside the Boston blue line. Vladar stopped the Evan Rodrigues tip off the Kapanen shot, but Brandon Tanev was there to clean up the rebound at 15:22. That was the only puck to get by Vladar.
The Pens would lose their red-hot star Malkin in the first period. He took a big hit from Tinordi and was shaken. He went to the room and returned but later left the game for good.
In the second period, the B’s let a potentially game-changing situation go through their fingers.
Tanev blasted Tinordi a good distance from the boards and the 6-foot-6 defenseman’s head took the brunt of the hit against the boards. Tinordi, who has a concussion history, appeared to be briefly knocked out from the blow, but was able to eventually get off the ice with a little assistance from the training staff.
Tanev was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding. The refs reviewed it and upheld the call. Tanev was incensed by the call, and it was in fact a borderline call. The B’s could not do anything with it. They kept the puck in the Pittsburgh zone for nearly the first three minutes of the advantage, but could not get enough pucks at DeSmith. In fact, the Pens had the best chance of the entire major, a Mark Jankowski breakaway shot that went off the post.
While the Pens were without Malkin and Tanev for the third, the B’s were missing Tinordi from their already decimated blue line to finish off the game.
But that they did. After Frederic scored the eventual winner, there were some shaky moments. With DeSmith pulled for an extra skater, both Pastrnak and Marchand missed open nets on long but clean looks, but Vladar finally closed the door.
Asked if he got the puck as a souvenir, he smiled and answered in the affirmative.
Said Vladar: “I’m probably going to sleep with it.”