PITTSBURGH -- The Bruins picked up right where they left off at the All-Star break, continuing their winning ways last night with a 6-3 victory over the Penguins at the Igloo. Boston extended its winning streak to a season-best six games and is unbeaten in seven (6-0-1-0).
Pittsburgh, on other hand, is going in a different direction. This was the Penguins' franchise-record 12th straight loss, and they tied an NHL record with their 11th straight home loss.
The easy conclusion to draw is that this was all about special teams. The Bruins had three power-play goals on five chances and scored once shorthanded. Coach Mike Sullivan has been preaching the importance of special teams all season.
"We keep saying it's such a big part of this game," said Sullivan. "Our power play has gotten a lot better over the last five or six weeks. When you can spread the offense around and everyone seems to be chipping in and contributing, it certainly makes us a tougher team to play against."
Boston's goals came from six players, and captain Joe Thornton led the way with 3 points (one goal, two assists). Goaltender Andrew Raycroft stopped 30 shots on the way to his 20th victory of the season (20-12-6).
The triumph came despite the Bruins missing two of their most potent offensive weapons. Right wing Glen Murray missed the game with a stomach flu and left wing Sergei Samsonov, who had a goal, played only eight shifts before sustaining a rib injury, the severity of which Sullivan said wasn't immediately known.
Despite their woes, the Penguins struck first, with Ryan Malone potting his first of two at 4:55 of the first period.
The Bruins pulled even during a power play midway through the period, taking advantage of the league's worst penalty-killing unit.
Forward Patrice Bergeron, who moved back to right wing on the top line with Thornton as a result of Murray's absence, dished a pass to defenseman Dan McGillis at the left point. McGillis, playing his first game after missing two because of a hip flexor strain that led to back spasms, fired a one-timer that goalie Sebastien Caron stopped. But Samsonov was there for the rebound and shoveled it in at 11:07 for his 11th of the year.
Boston got its first lead at 13:51 on the strength of another power-play goal, by right wing Marty Lapointe, who potted his second in two games after going 12 contests without one. Defenseman Nick Boynton fired a shot from the right point that Lapointe tipped in for his 10th of the year.
The Penguins cashed in on a power play with 1:58 remaining in the first period. Defenseman Dick Tarnstrom took a pass at the left point from fellow blue liner Drake Berehowsky and relayed it at the net. It hit off Malone, who was parked in front, and dropped at his feet. He took one whack at it and missed but he connected on the second try to make it 2-2.
The Bruins went back on top midway through the second period with the clubs skating four a side. After Thornton dished the puck to Mike Knuble behind the net, Knuble skated it out into the right circle and then the slot, beating Caron at 9:26 for No. 16 of the season.
At 13:33, the Penguins fought back. Right wing Eric Meloche, positioned in the left circle, relayed a pass to right wing Matt Bradley in the slot, and Bradley redirected it past Raycroft.
The Bruins rallied to their third (and final) lead of the evening, generating their third power-play goal. Thornton earned his second assist (and 41st helper of the season) when he fired a pass from the right circle to McGillis in the left. McGillis's hard wrister was too much for Caron to handle and Boston was up, 4-3, at 15:18.
The Bruins' other special teams unit provided insurance at 6:55 of the third when center Brian Rolston potted a shorthanded goal. Defenseman Sean O'Donnell started the play when he chipped the puck up for left wing P.J. Axelsson, who raced up the right side on an odd man rush. Rolston came down as the trailer, Axelsson backhanded a pass to him in the slot, and it was 5-3.
Thornton sealed it with an empty-netter with 40.2 seconds left.
"I thought we played all right tonight," said McGillis. "We did the job to win but we've got to be better in our own end. But we'll certainly take the 2 points. It's a good start to our road trip and we'll go from here."