They might have waited a week to face off in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins have already provided plenty of fireworks.
With eight days off after clinching their second round matchup over the Senators, the Penguins looked rusty and rattled in Game 1. The Bruins, who had a week off after finishing their second round series against the Rangers, took advantage of the opportunity.
It didn’t take too long for the drama to unfold Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center. Boston villain and Pens pest Matt Cooke was given a misconduct for boarding Adam McQuaid in the second period. At the end of the middle stanza, Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron dropped the gloves, while Sidney Crosby was jawing at Bruins captain Zdeno Chara over something that did not include their dinner plans. Sandwiched between that sequence, the “Little Ball of Hate”, Brad Marchand, was called for boarding James Neal.
The postgame buffet will taste a little sweeter for the Black and Gold, however. Tuukka Rask made 29 saves in his first career postseason shutout, while David Krejci scored two goals and fellow linemate Nathan Horton added a tally in Boston’s 3-0 triumph.
“We didn’t want to lay back and give them chances,” said Horton. “Like we talked about, we wanted to keep going at them and play our game and I think that’s what we did.”
Emotions were high throughout Saturday’s contest, but they got higher after Cooke’s cheap shot on McQuaid – a hit that should get reviewed by Brendan Shanahan. They were even higher when Malkin dropped the gloves and Crosby got in the face of Chara, and exchanged a few words with Rask before the second intermission.
The Bruins, however, kept their emotions in check and the Penguins let the game get away from them.
“This is playoff hockey and those things are going to happen,” head coach Claude Julien said. “You don’t whine or complain about it, you just deal with it. What we had to deal with tonight was winning a hockey game and that’s all that mattered.”
As the teams eye a chance to play for Lord’s Stanley Cup there’s no denying that tensions grow during the course of the game.
Add to that the bad blood between the two teams – despite the first postseason meeting between the two squads since 1992 – and you have yourself the makings of an intense series.
“I think it isn’t surprising to see guys step out of their usual selves and go the extra mile and get emotional and scrap for every little momentum swing and every little inch,” said defenseman Andrew Ference, who tallied 17:27 of ice time in his first game back since the Toronto series. “I think its par for the course for this time of year.”
There’s still a long way to go, but the Bruins already have Crosby, Malkin and company rattled. Their 20-guy approach worked perfectly in Game 1 and they’ll look to do the same in Game 2 Monday night.
“I think it was a good win,” said Krejci. “We got a big win and we have a day off tomorrow and we need to regroup and get ready for Monday.”
“If we play the right way, then we can beat anybody. I think we’ve shown that in the past,” added Rask. “When we play within the system and everything is going the right way, then it gives you success.”
The Bruins played within the system in Game 1, and it was quite successful.