Pittsburgh 5 – Boston 3
MORNING PENS BUZZ
The Pittsburgh Penguins moved closer to clinching home-ice in the first round, with a 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Sidney Crosby had two goals and an assist, and James Neal scored the go-ahead goal on the power play for his 40th of the season, leading Pittsburgh to the 5-3 victory.
With the New York Rangers locking up the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, the Rangers helped give Pittsburgh some breathing room for the No. 4 seed, as the Penguins moved three points ahead of the Flyers.
When evaluating last night’s Penguins win, it was a game that is hard to feel really great about the Penguins, considering it felt like a meaningless game for the Bruins and they played like it at times, while also playing Marty Turco in goal who belongs in the AHL at this point in his career.
Thursday night’s game could have the same kind of feel as the Rangers might look to take it a bit easy as they’re likely to rest Henrik Lundqvist.
Nonethless, here’s the Good and Bad coming out of last night’s 5-3 win over the Bruins.
Power Play – The story coming out of the game was the power play where the Penguins made the Bruins pay late in the second period, scoring two power play goals in a 48 second span on penalties by Daniel Paille and Rich Peverley. What stood out was the movement by players on top unit when they didn’t have the puck. Pittsburgh was not stationary by any means and the movement caused Boston problems, most notably on Crosby’s power play marker when the Bruins lost Crosby in space.
Sidney Crosby – Crosby led the way offensively with 2 goals and an assist. As the playoff near, he’s starting to find his form offensively with 3 goals and 6 assists in his last 9 games.
Brent Johnson – Johnson made 26 saves in the win and made several timely and key saves. He’s posted back to back solid outings, but his performance last night was much more promising than Friday night’s game against the Sabres. Last night for maybe the first time all year, Johnson’s positioning was very good and he wasn’t erratic which has been a major issue for him. Is there renewed faith in him?
Kris Letang – Kris Letang was back on the top power play unit and had 3 assists in the win, earning the games No. 3 star.
Goal Scoring – The Penguins have scored 5 goals or more in 8 of their last 13 games. In 12 games since Sidney Crosby has returned, Pittsburgh has scored 54 goals, averaging 4.5 goals per game with Crosby in the lineup.
4th line chipping in – The Penguins 4th line can do more than just gooning it up I guess. With the Penguins leading 4-2 and the Bruins making an early surge in the third period and carrying the play, Arron Asham put the Penguins up 5-2, 6:15 into the third period with his 5th of the season.
Pascal Dupuis – Dupuis assisted on Sidney Crosby’s first period goal at 7:41, extending his points streak to 15 games, the longest streak in the NHL this season and second longest in the NHL since the start of the 2010-2011 season. Dupuis has 9 goals and 11 assists during the streak.
James Neal – James Neal collected his 40th goal of the season, scoring the go-ahead power play goal at 18:11 of the second period. With the goal, Neal became the first Penguin winger to score 40 goals since Jaromir Jagr and Alex Kovalev reached the mark in 2000-2001. Neal ranks 4th in the NHL in goals (40), 5th in points (81), 1st in power play goals (18), 2nd in shots (329).
Defensive Breakdowns – The Penguins showed absolutely nothing last night that they are starting to turn the corner the defensively. Pittsburgh was plagued once again with multiple defensive breakdowns and they continue to let the opposition get behind them. There was no change in that critical area last night. The Penguins defend as bad as they did in the 2009-2010 season, a season that saw them unable to get out of the second round and led to management spending $45 million in free agency on Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin that summer, in the hopes of becoming one of the best defensive teams in hockey.
Injuries – Matt Niskanen re-aggravated his shoulder injury, taking a hard hit in the corner when retrieving a puck. Niskanen was in clear pain and it appeared he knew something was wrong immediately. Meanwhile, Joe Vitale had a scary situation taking a Zdeno Chara shot to the face. Of the two, Niskanen would be a big loss on the blueline.
Paul Martin – Martin is back to the point where he’s a major liability again. Once again, everything looks to be in slow motion for him and his play is reaching the same territory from a few months ago. A very bad sign for the Penguins entering the playoffs.