Friday, December 21, 2007
The Bruins may have just salvaged their homestand last night, coming from down 4-0, earning an OT loss, and a very valuable point. The Bruins are still the only team in the NHL that has yet to lose two consecutive games in regulation this season.
I won’t lie, when the B’s fell behind 3-0 in the first period, I just assumed it was over. The Penguins completely outclassed Boston in the first 30 minutes of play. Sidney Crosby had a Gordie Howe hat trick five minutes into the 2nd when he dropped the gloves and took on Andrew Ference. It was an historical moment: the first major penalty in Crosby’s career.
The Next One had a superlative first period, assisting in two of Pittsburgh’s goals, and scoring the other. Due to the unbalanced schedule, we don’t get to see much of the Penguins and Crosby, but after seeing the level of talent this kid has, I’ll make it a point to watch the next nationally televised Penguins game. He’s just one of those players that changes the entire game when he’s on the ice. Everybody on both teams has to play differently because of him. But he still needs to learn how to fight better.
It was a rude return for Tim Thomas, who made his first start since injuring his groin two weeks ago. He let in 4 goals off 29 shots. Thomas made some fine saves in the 1st, but he also seemed a bit off. His fundamentals weren’t as crisp as usual, and his reaction time was just a hair slower than we’re used to seeing. The rust was apparent.
Down 4-0 halfway through the game, the Bruins seemed destined to fall to 1-3-0 in their homestand. They lost to the Devils the night they came back from Atlanta. Despite a poor effort, they beat Columbus 2-0. Then Ottawa came to town and prevailed 3-2. You never want to let a 5 game homestand go to waste, and the B’s were on the brink of doing just that.
When Marco Sturm deflected an Andrew Ference drive on the power play to make it 4-1, it seemed as though it was merely a face saving goal, preventing a shutout and allowing the B’s to hold on to some dignity.
But when Jeremy Reich won a shorthanded faceoff in Pittsburgh’s zone, and P.J. Axelsson slapped his pass home, it was suddenly a game again.
Petteri Nokelainen (think he’s Finnish?) wristed in a rebound off of Ference’s blue line drive to make the game 4-3.
The Bruins outshot Pittsburgh 17-4 in the 3rd, putting immense pressure on UNH product Ty Conklin. At the other end of the ice, former Vermont Catamoount Tim Thomas had much less work, but made two of the best saves of the game. He stopped an Evgeni Malkin drive from the high slot off a turnover. Later, he stopped a point blank shot to keep the game at 4-3.
The Bruins equalized on their power play. In typical man advantage hockey, they rotated the puck around. Zdeno Chara passed from the blue line to Marc Savard on the right wing. Savard dished it to Sturm just behind and to the side of the net. Sturm looked to center it to Glen Metropolit crashing the net, but a pair of Penguins covered him, leaving Dennis Wideman wide open in the high slot. Sturm threaded a quick pass, and Wideman one-timed it past Conklin to tie the game.
Overtime and the ensuing shootout were not as balanced as the game. Pittsburgh seemed to get their legs back, and Conklin seemed to get his confidence back. The Bruins didn’t manage a single shot in the extra period, spending most of their time trying to break up breakaways, of which there was no shortage. If not for the 4 minutes of solid defensive play from Captain Chara, the countless Pittsburgh 3 on 2s may have turned into more shots and a goal.
Erik Christensen began the shootout for Pittsburgh with a nifty move that had Thomas bite just a little bit with his left leg. The move was enough for Christensen to knock it over Thomas’s blocker. Phil Kessel tried to make a move, but Conklin stayed at home, forcing a poor short range shot. Kris Letang - a rookie defenseman who already had two game winning shootout scores - netted home Pittsburgh’s second. Sturm was Boston’s last hope. He skated wide, but Conklin once again didn’t take the bait, stopping Sturm’s effort with ease, and securing a victory.
A win would have been very nice, but I’ll take the point after falling behind Pittsburgh 4-0. The Bruins finish their homestand on Saturday with an afternoon game against the St. Louis Blues. Then it’s to Pittsburgh, and a rematch with these Penguins.
With the OT loss, the Bruins become the second Eastern Conference team to reach 40 points, maintaining a tenuous hold on the 4 th seed, a mere point ahead of Montreal. The B’s are on pace for 96 points. They only had 76 last season.