The Pittsburgh Penguins (42-21-5, 89 pts) closed within two points of the conference and division leading New York Rangers, with an impressive 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins (40-25-3, 83 pts) on Sunday afternoon at the Consol Energy Center.
Pittsburgh scored three first period goals chasing goaltender Tim Thomas from the net, and Evgeni Malkin had three assists, leading the Penguins to their ninth straight victory.
Malkin the NHL’s leading scorer with 84 points, collected his first multi-point game in seven games.
Arron Asham (4), Matt Niskanen (4), James Neal (31), ChrisÂ Kunitz (20), Pascal Dupuis (18) all scored in the victory. Marc Andre Fleury (37-14-3) has won seven straight starts, making 34 saves to earn his 37th victory of the season. Fleury is now 18-2-1 in his last 21 starts.
David Krejci (19, 20) scored twice for the Bruins in the loss.
Pittsburgh next plays Thursday night vs the New York Rangers.
Fast, Physical Start: While the Penguins might have been playing the Boston Bruins at the perfect time as the Bruins have been “off their game” for weeks now, few teams physically dominate Boston like Pittsburgh did today. That was the biggest thing to take out of this game.
The Penguins came out extremely hard and were relentless on the forecheck and what they did was target the Bruins best players, most notably defenseman Zdeno Chara, hitting him at every chance on the forecheck. It might have been the most physical start the Penguins had all season
Pens defensemen active early and often: The Penguins coaching staff feels the Penguins are at their best offensively when their defensemen are active and joining the rush. The Penguins were effective in that area, especially early on in the first period. The team also got a lot of offense from the backend with Ben Lovejoy getting a primary assist on Arron Asham’s first period goal at 3:24 of the period and Matt Niskanen scored his 4th goal of the season with a shot from the point at 7:12 of the first, giving Pittsburgh an early 2-0 lead.
Turco helps slow down Pens on forecheck: : Tim Thomas was pulled following the first period after giving up 3 goals on 10 shots. The goaltender switch not only seemed to jumpstart the Bruins a bit but where the switch helped out the Bruins tremendously was slowing down the Penguins forecheck. Turco is very good at handling the puck and with Thomas out of the net, the Penguins effectiveness on the forecheck went away which helped Boston defensively due to Turco’s ability in handling the puck.
Pens stand tall at blueline: What stood out with the Penguins defensively today, they didn’t let the Bruins consistently be a force on the forecheck. A big reason for that was the Penguins not backing in defensively and standing up near or just inside the blueline. The Bruins were careless with the puck entering the Penguins zone and the Penguins being aggressive at the blueline was a big factor in that, in addition to Pittsburgh being effective on the backcheck which helped the Penguins quickly turn the other way in the transition game.
— In the previous past handful of games, the Penguins top line of Chris Kunitz – Evgeni Malkin and James Neal had taken a backseat to the Penguins second line of Steve Sullivan – Jordan Staal and Pascal Dupuis. Not today as the Penguins top line woke up and combined for two goals and five assists in the victory. Malkin had 3 assists, Kunitz had a goal and James Neal had a goal and two assists, snapping a nine game goal less streak.
— Arron Asham is a player who seems to step up his game in big situations down the stretch. That is happening again this season for Asham who got the Penguins rolling today, beating MacDermid in the slot for a winnable puck, scoring 3:24 into the game.
— The Penguins were 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and killed off an Evgeni Malkin boarding penalty with less than seven minutes remaining in the gameÂ as the Bruins tried to climb within one goal. Pittsburgh has killed off 21 straight penalties and 54 of 56 penalties in their last 18 games.
— The Penguins struggled defensively against the Bruins top line of Milan Lucic – David Krejci and Tyler Seguin who combined for 2 goals and 4 assists in the loss. However, the injury to Patrice Bergeron and with several others not playing made the Bruins a one-line team today.
— Eric Tangradi returned to lineup in place of Richard Park who was a healthy scratch. Tangradi was a +2 in 10:13 of ice time.
Evgeni Malkin (3 assists, +1, 4 shots on goal, 19:57 TOI, 15W-5L, 75.0 FO%)
— Malkin picked up 3 assists, moving two points ahead of Steve Stamkos for the NHL points lead with 84. Malkin was also strong in the faceoff circle, winning 15 of 20 draws
James Neal (1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 4 shots on goal, 18:43 TOI)
— Neal scored his 31st goal of the season, a power play marker (14th ppg), snapping a nine game goal less streak. Neal the games No. 1 star, added two assists and was a presence on the forecheck.
— Jordan Staal (1 assist, even rating, 2 shots on goal, 21:03 TOI, 12W-10L, 54.5 FO%).
–Â Staal extended his points and assist streak to a career high eight games. Staal has 3 goals and 8 assists during his eight game points streak. Staal was 54.5% in the faceoff circle and is over 54% on draws in his last 21 games.
Matt Niskanen (1 goal, +2, 4 shots on goal, 23:06 TOI)
— Niskanen collected his fourth goal on the season and had a strong two-way game. Niskanen had a team-high 23:06 of ice time and was tied for a team-high 4 shots on goal
Pascal Dupuis (1 goal, +1, 1 shot on goal, 16:33 of ice time)
— Dupuis scored his 18th goal of the season and had 1:54 of ice time on the penalty kill, second among Penguin forwards. Dupuis has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 9 games
PIT 3:24 Arron Asham (4)
Assists: Ben Lovejoy, Craig Adams (1-0 PIT)
PIT 7:12 Matt Niskanen (4)
Assists: Evgeni Malkin, James Neal (2-0 PIT)
PIT 18:48 James Neal (31) (Power Play)
Assist: Evgeni Malkin (3-0)
BOS 1:56 David Krejci (19)
Assists: Tyler Seguin, Milan Lucic (3-1 PIT)
PIT 4:27 Chris Kunitz (20)
Assists: James Neal, Evgeni Malkin (4-1 PIT)
BOS 10:01 David Krejci (20)
Assists: Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin (4-2 PIT)
PIT 16:07 Pascal Dupuis (18)
Assists: Jordan Staal, Deryk Engelland (5-2 PIT)
24-8-2: Pittsburgh’s home record
21-4-1: Penguins record in their last 26 games, dating back to January 13th
33-13: Penguins have outscored their opponnents 33-13 during their nine game winning streak
23-0-2: Penguins record when leading after two periods
26-7-3: Penguins record when scoring first
60-32-9: The Penguins record in their last 101 games without Sidney Crosby
8: Jordan Staal extended his assist streak to eight games, picking up a primary assist on Pascal Dupuis’ third period breakaway goal
11-1: Marc Andre Fleury’s record at home in his last 12 home games
500: Evgeni Malkin recorded his 500th career point on Matt Niskanen’s first period goal
200: Niskanen’s first period goal was also a milestone for James Neal who had the secondary assist, collecting his 200th career point.
54.7%: Jordan Staal is 54.7% in the faceoff circle, in his last 21 games.
77: The combined points for Chris Kunitz (7G-9A), Evgeni Malkin (18G-20A) and James Neal (7G-16A) in their last 22 home games together.
NOTES: The Philadelphia Flyers (39-21-7, 85 pts), New Jersey Devils (39-24-5, 83 pts) and New York Rangers (42-18-7, 91 pts) are all in action tonight. The No. 5 Flyers face No. 6 New Jersey in New Jersey tonight, while the Rangers host the New York Islanders tonight. Pittsburgh, New York and Philadelphia will all be tied in games played following tonight’s games…….Pittsburgh scratched Dustin Jeffrey, Paul Martin (illness), Brian Strait (healthy), Brent Johnson, Kris Letang and Richard Park (healthy)…..Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang each skated very hard this morning and could return to action as early as Thursday night vs Rangers.