It was worth the wait for Bruins fans after all.
When the two teams finally got around to playing some playoff hockey Saturday night, the Bruins shut down the so-called high-flying Penguins 3-0, led by David Krejci’s two goals and Tuukka Rask’s spectacular presence in net.
“I think they had a pretty good start and they had some good chances,” Krejci said. “We were getting [into] some trouble. We couldn’t get the puck deep, we couldn’t get the forecheck going. After we scored the first goal, it kind of turned around and we started playing in their zone a little more. In the second and third period, we played the way we play.”
The Penguins did have their chances, early and often in the first period when they took the game to the Bruins in their fast paced style, dominating the play in Boston’s zone.
“We got caught into a run-and-gun type of game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I think we all know we’re not a team that does well in those run-and-gun games.”
The tide turned for the Bruins at 8:23 of that first period when Krejci scored his first goal on a pass from Nathan Horton (one goal, two assists on the night). The shot got a piece of Penguins defenseman Paul Martin before trickling in. Returning defenseman Andrew Ference also picked up an assist on the play that saw the puck knuckle through Tomas Vokoun’s pads and over the goal line.
Krejci leads the NHL with 19 points in the playoffs (7 goals, 12 assists) but he’s not putting himself in a star class with Sidney Crosby (seven goals, eight assists) or Evgeni Malkin (four goals, 12 assists) just yet.
“Those guys, I think they’re the best players in the world at this moment,” Krejci said. “There’s no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don’t have guys like that. We have a team.”
Horton, who scored the third Bruins goal at 7:51 of the third period, heaped praise on the highly-skilled Krejci.
“It’s all of it,” Horton said. “His defensive game. He’s back in the corners, and when he has the puck, he makes things happen, and that’s why you get him the puck as much as possible and you’ll have a good night.”
Krejci’s second goal, at 4:04 of the third period, came when an airborne puck landed right in front of him in the crease and he knocked it in.
Rask turned away 29 shots against a team that had been averaging 4.27 goals per game in the postseason.
“You got to be happy, obviously,” Rask said. “I still thought they had plenty of chances. It’s just one game. If they keep doing that, they’re going to score some goals. It’s going to happen, but I think we did a great job in blocking some shots today and then taking care of those loose pucks in front.”
The teams turned up the heat in the second period when The Villian Matt Cooke picked up a game misconduct when he buried Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid into the boards with a check from behind 92 seconds into the period. McQuaid stayed on the ice after the hit, left the game briefly, but returned to the ice later in the period.
“We all know the history with (Cooke),” Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby said. “It’s going to be looked at and scrutinized a lot more because it’s him, but I wouldn’t go as far to say it’s a penalty because it’s Cooke.”
To say that Cooke will be persona non grata in Boston Wednesday would be a gross understatement.
Crosby, who was shut down by Rask and the Bruins defense all night, almost went head-to-chest with Zdeno Chara at the end of the wild second.
“That’s the playoffs, I think if we score a couple goals, we’re not talking about that,” Crosby said. “We’re talking about the chances we created; we did a lot of good things. At the end of the day you’ve got to execute and at the end of the day it’s going to be physical. We expect that and that’s the way this series is going to go.”
Chara credited the Bruins defense for stepping up in Game 1.
“They got some chances,” the Bruins captain said. “But for the most part I thought we played well defensively.”
Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun said the Bruins took the Penguins out of their game, and that was the difference.
“They forced more of their game on us than we did ours on them at the end, and it paid off for them,” Vokoun said.
Julian took all the physical play and extracurricular shenanigans in stride.
“This is playoff hockey,” Julien said. “Those things are going to happen. 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. That’s all that mattered.”
The teams get back at it again Monday night for Game 2. It would seem unlikely that the Bruins could shut down the Pens snipers at Consol Energy Center for a second straight game but not many would have predicted a shutout on the road to start the series.