Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports

Penguins 6, Bruins 5: Empty tank forces B's to survive for loser point

Ty Anderson
January 08, 2018 - 12:59 am

The Bruins may have started the night with a 1-0 lead just 1:51 into the game, and finished the first period with 12 shots compared to just nine from Pittsburgh skaters, but it was the Penguins that finished the period with three goals in a 9:26 stretch.

Oh, and Patrice Bergeron limped off the ice after a blocked shot.

Down by two goals, with their best player appearing to come up lame, and their bye week just 40 minutes away, it would have made almost too much sense for the Bruins to pack it in and simply do their best to avoid any further losses in The Steel City.

But these Bruins are apparently Jason Voorhees, and never truly out of a game.

A Brad Marchand snipe off a faceoff brought the Bruins within one, Noel Acciari tied things up with a puck off his chest and in, David Pastrnak came through with an unassisted wraparound strike for a one-goal lead, and David Backes’ fling-it-on attempt provided an insurance marker and chased Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry from the crease.

It all happened in a 9:50 span, and looked like it was going to be enough to beat the Penguins into the ground, until Evgeni Malkin was left all alone in front of Tuukka Rask and tallied a power-play goal with less than four seconds left in the middle frame.

Riley Sheahan provided the equalizer just 2:54 into the third period -- and on a goal that Rask most definitely stops most nights (and in fact has since December) -- and from there it was more than obvious that the Black and Gold’s skaters were just swimming.

Or, like Jason, drowning.

In a period that finished with 17 shots from the Penguins (and just six from the Bruins), it was Rask that did his best to atone for an obviously strugglesome night (Rask himself said that he played like ‘horse [expletive] all night’ after the game), with countless stops and attempts to settle things down for a scrambling and winded group.

This was just survival, and it nearly paid off, as the B’s were just a Marchand penalty shot away from stealing a victory against Matt Murray and the defending champs.

Despite Marchand’s penchant for penalty shot goals, the bid came up just short.

But when Murray came through with the stop with 1:01 left in the third period, and the Penguins dominated possession from the drop of the puck in overtime, you by all means knew it was simply a matter of time. This was especially true when the Penguins pinned the David Krejci, Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy into their own zone, and forced Boston to make a risky change with the likes of Malkin and Phil Kessel on the ice.

It played out to a 2-on-1 chance for two of Pitt’s best, and a 6-5 final.

And everything about this game felt like a natural and expected comedown.

Speaking to their obvious fatigue, I don’t know if Rask allows those two 55-foot one-timers in the first period if Thursday is not postponed and he’s playing with three days rest versus five. Nor am I positive that the Malkin power-play goal happens if the Bruins are operating with even a hint more in the tank than they had tonight. Same for the third period, which was spent almost entirely in the B’s zone and from in tight.

As for the game result itself, you can look at this as the Bruins blowing a two-goal lead. Or you can look at this as the Bruins successfully erasing a two-goal deficit and forcing overtime -- an overtime they had no business being in given how straight-up terrible they were in the third period -- against a rested team. Given the opposition, I would opt to look at it as the latter. You could suggest that Rask needed to perform better -- and you would be right, no doubt -- but to blame this game solely on him would be the ignore the last month-plus of borderline unconscious play from Rask.

But there’s no doubt they’ll be back -- and better -- after a well-earned five-day break.

Chi chi chi, ha ha ha.

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