December 5, 2011

Post-Game Breakdown: Thomas, B's top first-place Penguins

By Jesse Connolly

Final: Boston 3, Pittsburgh 1

Recap: After a scoreless first period in which the Bruins carried the play, Boston broke through with a gritty goal from Greg Campbell and a beautiful snipe by Benoit Pouliot to take a 2-0 lead. In the third, Tyler Seguin extended the Bruins’ edge to three when he buried his 13th of the season with 1:07 gone in the frame. Matt Cooke made it 3-1 with 9:06 left in the contest, but Tim Thomas continued to shut down the Pens’ frantic attack, finishing the night with 45 stops to cement the win.

Records: Boston 17-7-1, 35 points; Pittsburgh 16-8-4, 36 points

Key Play of the Game: At the 7:18 mark of the second period, Rich Peverley made an outstanding play. The forward picked off the puck at center ice, made sure his linemates were ready to break in, set up Pouliot for a laser headed top shelf to give Boston a 2-0 lead. The goal really took a lot of energy out of the building.

Connolly’s Commendations: Kudos must go first and foremost to Thomas, who stood on his head from start-to-finish. With a season-high 45 saves, including 17 in the second period and 22 (!) in the third, the 37-year-old came oh-so-close to shutting out a Pens squad that had gone 5-1-1 in their last seven contests.

The B’s stellar penalty kill also deserves a heap of credit. Pittsburgh had two extended 5-on-3 power plays during the game, including a full two-minute, two-man advantage in the second period, but couldn’t break through. The Penguins finished the night 0-for-5 on the man advantage.

Stellar game by Pouliot, as he and linemates Peverley and Chris Kelly were buzzing in the offensive zone all night. The 25-year-old winger finished the contest with four shots on goal and now has three points in the last four tilts.

Three cheers for Mr. Campbell as well, who not only buried his second goal of the year but came to his netminder’s defense when former Northeastern Husky Joe Vitale crashed into Thomas.

Connolly’s Critiques: Watching Brad Marchand’s bout with Matt Niskanen was undoubtedly entertaining, but the play that caused it wasn’t something anyone wants to see out of No. 63. Marchand gave the Pens d-man a classic slew-foot in the corner, an absolute no-no.

Notes: Penguins stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both suffered dings in this one. Crosby had an ugly collision with teammate Chris Kunitz, while Malkin was the recipient of a big hit from Dan Paille.

Final Thoughts: The Bruins point streak is now at fifteen games and counting, and perhaps no win was more impressive than this one. It was a clash of the Titans in the Eastern Conference and the Bruins reigned supreme.

Next: Boston will turn right around and head to Winnipeg for another matchup with the Jets on Tuesday night.