Two penalties called in the first 90 seconds of the game... so, an indicator of an upcoming weird game. David Pastrnak boarded Sidney Crosby 40 seconds in, and then another 40ish later, Evgeni Malkin held Jarred Tinordi, and 4v4 resulted. The remaining power play for Boston after Pasta served his was a great momentum-builder, and Brad Marchand fed Pastrnak a great cross-zone pass, and His Carbiness did not disappoint. In fact, he absolutely torched the last of Pittsburgh’s PK.
Now that his team had given him a lead, Dan Vladar demonstrated how dialed in he could be. Some serious flexibility capped by a highlight-reel flailing stick save kept the Penguins off the board through the midpoint of the first.
It was almost poetic... the team completely gelled in front of him for a serious stretch in the middle of the frame. The neutral zone was a tough place, Boston had already forced several icings against the Pens before taking the lead.
With seven minutes left, Boston had an offensive zone faceoff that saw first the Pens center getting tossed from the circle, and on the re-drop, Pastrnak got called again for a trip - despite the victim, Brian Dumoulin, seemingly dropping intentionally to block a shot from the top of the circle by Marchand. (Smart idea, by the way.) Boston killed it, but Pittsburgh smelled blood and was able to create havoc down low in the Bruins end, scoring quickly on a loose puck in front of Vladar after a missed play-neutralizing opportunity by Jakub Zboril, who instead threw it right back into the Pens’ skaters feet. The rest was just not pretty.
Seven points in his last seven games.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 16, 2021
Brandon Tanev has turned on turbo speed. pic.twitter.com/BSiLVCsAre
Then, Pittsburgh set up shop and made a few mahogany chairs in the B’s end. For what seemed like a full cycle of shifts for the Pens, they circled and cycled and were able to land a few more chances on Vladar. Thankfully, Boston found some pushback and leveled the tilt in the last 3-4 minutes.
Vladar ended the frame a little shaky, but he did not disappoint... and DEFINITELY didn’t lose favor after that ridiculous paddle save.
Odd start again, as first Pastrnak took a penalty, and then all of Pittsburgh did - there were just too many! (Men. On the ice. You get it.) That sapped roughly the first quarter of the period.
Play accelerated, and Boston earned another power play after a strong net drive by Trent Frederic drove Marcus Pettersson to grab him like it was the 80’s. Alas, no luck - though, Pastrnak had a few more great chances and Boston at least didn’t give up much to Pittsburgh on counterattacks for a while.
We’re not going to gloss over the hit, but I’d rather not show it, either... but, if you’re here reading this, you probably have already seen it. In the moment, it looked like a good body hit with a bad result - Brandon Tanev launching Jarred Tinordi into the boards with a good amount of force. After the fact, though, it’s quite clear that it was probably both charging AND boarding, because Tanev came from the opposite PIT-side neutral zone faceoff dot (the Bruins’ right ‘offsides’ dot, if you wish) and crushed Tinordi after several long strides, with some distance to go before the boards - which, from the force of Tanev, Tinordi covered on his back and struck the boards with his upper back and spine.
Debate it if you will. The hit probably should earn at least a hearing, if not a fine... whichever starts less, I suppose, because he doesn’t have an active nasty streak.
The major and misconduct gave Boston five minutes of man-up time, with NO results. Kind of embarrassing.
Marchand took a penalty early, so Vladar had to bust out a couple glove snaps on Pitt’s snipers - Crosby’s slapshot and Guentzel’s wrister coming down the slot were memorable, despite an active game.
Sorry, no quick Pens penalty that negated it. I was disappointed, too.
Boston then started chipping away at Pittsburgh, with some better defensive zone play and slowly rolling the lock into the neutral zone. Then, a great cycle led to a shift change while Boston had the Pens pinned in their own end, and here comes none other than Trent Frederic flying down center ice. He faked a huge slapshot to freeze the defense and pushed the puck to his forehand, burying his wrist shot far-side to give Boston the lead.
Trent Frederic fires one home.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 17, 2021
2-1 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/bptQnSoNGk
Still with more than a half-period to go, Bruce Cassidy threw out the line centered by Sean Kuraly twice within just a handful of minutes, pressing the Pens back into their own zone. The first line also got two shifts in short order - maybe a little less surprising - to keep the Penguins from exiting their zone, except for some weak chip attempts to try and get behind Boston’s defense.
Naturally, hockey pivots back and forth, and Pittsburgh managed to drive Boston back on their own heels. The shortened bench on Boston’s defensive lines were at least partially offset by Malkin’s absence, and with the extra attacker, Boston was able to stave off another extra-inning fiasco, escaping Pittsburgh with two hard-earned points.
- I wouldn’t call Vladar’s rapid action ‘wasteful’, but that might be the only criticism that I found during the latter stages of the game - not trying to judge a rookie finding his way, he just seemed to move a lot laterally and over the course of an intense game, it may wear on him. (He’s also not in his 30s, so if he has energy to burn, then go for it!)
- It felt like the Boston structure took a step forward tonight, if not the finish. Charlie Coyle looked more engaged; Craig Smith had a second solid game in a row, and the defense really seemed to respond after Tinordi’s injury. Some of that was probably due to a shortened bench - Zboril played just under 13 minutes, and though he had a little more overall time in the third, it was to distribute Tinordi’s absence.
- It might have been Pittsburgh’s fatigue that gave this win to the Bruins. Boston was able to more evenly distribute time across their forward lines, while the Crosby/Guentzel/Rust line all logged over 22 minutes. Boston’s top line was close, but bear in mind that they also had that five-minute power play and nothing of importance to show for it.