The Boston Bruins used the 200×85 ice surface to their advantage Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Boston’s potent top-six lit the lamp thrice turning defense into offense. The struggling bottom-six complimented the top two lines with a healthy dose of energy and physicality in all three zones.
It all came together cohesively with highlight-reel goals by David Krejci and Taylor Hall, timely saves by Tuukka Rask — along with a helper on Krejci’s tally — and an important insurance marker by Brad Marchand during the final 40.
“There’s a lot to like from everybody, to be honest with you,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said following the B’s 3-1 victory. “We played a good determined game.”
The lone blemish came when Jeff Carter broke up Rask’s shutout bid late in the third. Here’s what we learned from Boston’s complete 60-minute effort in Pittsburgh.
The bottom-six complimented the top-six
Cassidy sent a message to the bottom-six with his benching of Jake DeBrusk for the second time this season. The fifth-year bench boss inserted Trent Frederic in DeBrusk’s place, hoping it would snap the third and fourth lines out of their funk.
Frederic started his night in a fourth-line role with Curtis Lazar and Chris Wagner. He later traded places with Nick Ritchie, spending time with Charlie Coyle at the opposite wing and Sean Kuraly at the middle in third-line duty.
Cassidy didn’t get a goal out of his bottom-six. The third and fourth liners combined for six of the team’s 31 shots on net on Tuesday. But he saw an increased sense of urgency in puck pursuit and play along the walls, especially with Frederic in his first game since April 6.
“We moved him up. Originally he was with Lazar and Wagner. We knew that might happen. Those six guys, we were going into it knowing that they could move around, and we did.” Cassidy said of Frederic’s effort. “We kept Sean [Kuraly] in the middle. I thought [Kuraly] did a good job with Coyle making it hard on their D, and Freddy was in there as well banging and annoying people, and they did a good job on the walls.”
The bottom-six did mucked things up against Sidney Crosby and company. The top-six followed up with another quality outing.
Unlike Tuesday, the Bruins didn’t hesitate going to the dirty areas. They fired a good handful of quality primary and secondary scoring chances against Tristian Jarry while sustaining a healthy attacking zone rythym.
Eventually, their patience paid off with Krejci, Marchand and Hall lighting the lamp in a 14:18 span between the late second period and the middle of the final stanza.
They scored in a variety of ways too with Hall and Krejci delivering crafty Sportscenter-worthy tallies and Marchand banking home a rebound on David Pastrnak’s attempt in a pinball-wizard type marker.
“Sometimes you have to beat guys one-on-one in this league. Sometimes you have to pick when to do it — when it’s the appropriate time. [Hall and Krejci] both did,” Cassidy said of the timely goals from the top-six.
“Obviously Krech’s was a big goal for us. We hadn’t scored in what, five or four and a half periods or whatever it was — and then with Hall’s…it was nice to extend your lead. Obviously, Marchand did that for the second goal and Hall for the third, so kudos to them. Our top guys did the finishing tonight and our bottom guys did a lot of the dirty work, the brunt work, the physicality…so it was a good formula for us.”
Rask lends a helping hand in more ways than one
Aside from a shaky outing in Buffalo on Friday, Boston’s all-time winningest goaltender hadn’t miss a beat upon returning from an upper-body ailment.
Rask tallied a secondary assist on Steven Kampfer’s opening period tally before paving way for Jaroslav Halak’s relief appearance in his first game back from COVID protocol. Jeremy Swayman made another scheduled start two days later in Pittsburgh, doing all he could to keep the Bruins within striking distance before the 1-0 setback.
The Finn returned to the net on Tuesday night. In one good way, he picked up where he left off against the Sabres, setting up McAvoy for an outlet pass, who in turn threaded the proverbial needle in a slick pass to Krejci en route to his crafty backhanded tally late in the second period.
“Well I started it,” Rask said with a chuckle as he discussed McAvoy’s u-tempo transition game on Krejci’s tally. “But yeah, I told Chuckie [McAvoy] to go wide there. I figured he’d wait a second there and have a rush chance. But then he and Krejci took the most care out of the rush, and obviously, Krejci made a nice finish there.”
Rask now has a two-game point streak for him. He’s tallied a pair of helpers in each of his last five seasons and has at least one assist in six straight campaigns.
With his deal expiring in the off-season, perhaps Rask could use his ‘offensive’ prowess in contract negotiations?
“I don’t think they pay me to score points. I guess I got a streak going with two games,” Rask said jokingly.
“When I have time and space with the puck, I try to help us out as much as I can and not turn it over. It’s been working pretty well this year.”
The Bruins pay Rask to stop pucks. And, well, he’s pretty good at handling his primary job description.
Rask didn’t have to stand on his proverbial head in this one. But the Bruins needed him to come through in times, especially after taking three penalties in the opening 20 minutes. No matter the situation, Rask delivered, stopping all but one of the 26 shots he faced.
“I thought he was solid in there,” Cassidy said of Rask. “I thought we were the better team early on. We got ourselves in a little bit of penalty trouble in the first period, but 5v5, we were really good. He made a big save on a rebound that bounced off our guy and into [Zach] Aston-Reese, but other than that, I thought we kept it clean in front of him…so good for him. Too bad we couldn’t have gotten a zero for him with a D change at an inappropriate time. But it’s still a win in a tough building to win in.”
The defensive layers, the bottom-six complimenting the top two lines and Rask’s solid outing all played a significant role in Boston’s second win of the year at PPG Paints Arena.
Crosby was held in check
Crosby will unquestionably etch his name into Toronto’s hallowed halls when he hangs up the skates. But his statline on Tuesday won’t be included into his future Hall of Fame collection.
The 2005 top overall pick failed to tally a single shot on net for the second time in 2021. His first blank in the shot on goal column came against the same Bruins squad — oddly in a Penguins victory — on April 1.
Albeit uncommon on a nightly basis, Crosby isn’t immune to landing zeros in shots on net. But rarely — if at all — does a negative eye-opening plus/minus rating accompany any one of his shotless nights.
Pittsburgh’s longtime captain found himself on the ice on all three of Boston’s tallies. His lowlight of the night came when Hall deked Crosby out of the Steel City en route to his spectacular third-period tally.
Crosby had a rare off-night in his final regular-season matchup with the Bruins. But he won’t be down for long. Cassidy and company know they’ll have their hands full with Crosby’s dynamic Penguins bunch if they renew acquaintances come playoff time.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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