It’s been a while since the Pittsburgh Penguins were shut out at home, especially if you use different metrics of measurement. If you consider all the other 29 teams, they were last shut out in February 2012. But if you narrow the field down to just the Boston Bruins, the team that put up a 3-0 shutout win tonight in game one of the Eastern Conference Final, they haven’t shut out Pittsburgh on their home ice since 1998. Back then, the Consol Energy Center didn’t exist, Bill Clinton was in office and Jaromir Jagr (snakebitten yet again, even though he had an excellent chance at one point) was a Penguin.
So it’s been a while.
It was a first for Tuukka Rask, too: his first-ever shutout win in the playoffs. There were times when he had to be up to the task, times when it seemed the hockey gods were smiling upon him, times when he had to be the team’s best penalty killer–but he stopped all 29 shots he saw. Could he have finally silenced those last remaining doubters of his talent and his skill? Perhaps. I hope so, anyway.
The Bruins looked a little iffy at first in the first period, including some missed odd-man rush opportunities, but David Krejci drew first blood when he scored on fellow countryman Tomas Vokoun in the first period, helped out by Nathan Horton and back-in-the-lineup Andrew Ference. I was initially worried about Ference being back in, but thankfully he didn’t make any defensive mistakes that led to Penguins goals, which was what I feared.
Matt Cooke was at it again. He put a nasty come-from-behind hit on Adam McQuaid, driving him into the boards, earning a five-minute major and game misconduct. (The swiftness with which NBC cued up the clip of Cooke hitting Marc Savard right after the McQuaid hit happened was unnerving.) I’m not sure if he’ll get any supplemental punishment for it, but even though McQuaid came back after a short trip down the tunnel, it still proves that Cooke really hasn’t changed his game at all and the attempted character-reconstruction campaign by some in the ‘burgh circle–Masterton nomination, anyone?–is all for naught.
Mayhem ensued after the second period, including the rarest of rare things: a fight involving Patrice Bergeron. He fought Evgeni Malkin, who took him down and then proceeded to keep hitting him even after the takedown, earning the ire of Bruins fans everywhere. Sidney Crosby had a little heated chat with Rask at that time. That’s a good idea, irking the goalie who once threw a milkcrate in white-hot rage. Crosby then went to have a talk with Zdeno Chara, who had to lean down to get in his fellow captain’s face.
The Penguins may have forgotten that sometimes fighting actually makes the Bruins play better, which is exactly what happened in the third. That’s when Krejci scored again, with another Horton helper, to take the playoff points leader position. About three minutes later, Horton reversed the roles, scoring his sixth of the playoffs and sending some fans to the doors early.
This game showed the Penguins that the Bruins are a different brand of team, nothing like the two teams the Penguins conquered before them. It also shows people, even Boston-affiliated people, that it’s not prudent to overestimate Pittsburgh or underestimate the Bruins. There was a lot of that going on this past week, but in the end, this game was worth the long, long wait.
Thankfully, there won’t be as long to wait until game two, which will be Monday night at 8 p.m. on NBCSN.