Bruins find scoring touch in loss to Penguins
PITTSBURGH - On the verge of their most exciting win this season, set to dump the Penguins for a second time in five days after chiseling away at deficits of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3, the Bruins saw the aging and funky Igloo transform into a house of horrors and heartbreak last night, culminating in a Pascal Dupuis goal with 1:24 gone in overtime for a 6-5 Pittsburgh victory.
Dupuis’s strike, his second of the night, was only the extension of an agonizing, bizarre, if not Machiavellian finish. Ready to rhumba across Three Rivers with only their ninth win this year, the Bruins instead saw ex-Bostonian Bill Guerin tie it, 5-5, with but four-tenths of a second remaining in regulation. Had it not been for Patrice Bergeron’s stick shattering in his own hands, allowing Evgeni Malkin to rush up ice and feed Guerin for the quick wrister, the puck would have been hammered deep into Pittsburgh’s end as the final, innocuous stroke of the night.
“Gotta love those graphite sticks, eh?’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien, having watched two points get sliced in half on the freakish play.
The winner by Dupuis was equally quirky for the Bruins, who hadn’t posted five goals since slapping a 7-2 loss on the Hurricanes in the second game of the season, back when everyone in Black-and-Gold country figured the goals would come in droves this season.
Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who was alternating brilliant and blah throughout the night, moved behind the net to stop a rimming puck for his closest defenseman, Dennis Wideman. But Wideman, close to the goal line and not in mental lockstep with Thomas, didn’t move in for the easy pick up. Instead, with Wideman standing and staring and Thomas trying to hustle back into position, Jordan Staal collected the dead puck and popped a cushy relay out front for Dupuis to make the easy stuff.
A moment frozen in time, with a chilling result for the hard-luck Bruins.
‘’Miscommunication . . . my fault,’’ said Thomas, who had surrendered only one goal in his previous three starts, across a total of 190 minutes. “I thought Wides was going to take it. By the time I realized he wasn’t going to take it . . . too late. I didn’t hear anything [from Wideman], but that could have been because of the crowd, I’m not sure. A read like that, it’s more of a body language thing - I misread his and he misread mine.’’
End result, an overtime loss hard on the eyes, on the psyche, and in the standings, where the Bruins have been unable to gain any traction amid their struggles with top performers Marc Savard and Milan Lucic sidelined by injury. They are 8-7-3 after 18 games, knowing that they have to start posting W’s with regularity, and soon, if they hope to avoid being in a five- or six-team scrum for the final couple of playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
“My view is, get over it,’’ said Julien, knowing how crippling a loss like last night can be for any team.
A little more than two minutes before Guerin sniped in his fourth goal of the season, the Bruins knocked home the would-be winner when Marco Sturm provided a slot tip to a Zdeno Chara shot from above the left circle. Chara let go a slapper and Sturm nicked it just enough for it to elude Brent Johnson. It was Boston’s first lead of the night, and lasted for a fraction more than 2:28 of the 2:29 that remained on the clock.
But then Bergeron’s state-of-the-art flyweight stick folded up faster than Lehman Bros., sending Malkin off to the races on the left side. The dynamic Russian broke over the blue line in tandem with Guerin, to his far right, and hit the ex-BC Eagle with a velvety feed that he zipped by Thomas on the glove side.
“I saw it . . . not a turnover, but a broken stick, with about four seconds to go,’’ said Thomas. “I’m thinking, ‘OK, he’ll only have time for a slap shot. When he didn’t shoot and made the pass, I am expecting a lefthanded shot over there, not Guerin with a righthanded shot. He shot it, and . . . I was waiting to see if it would get tipped, because there was a stick in the line of the shot. By the time I realized it wouldn’t get tipped, it was in the net.’’
Jay McKee (1-0 lead), Dupuis (2-1), Sidney Crosby (3-2), and Mark Eaton (4-3) also scored for the Penguins, and each of those leads was negated by Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder (ending a 10-game pointless drought), Derek Morris, and David Krejci.
“Very frustrating,’’ Ryder said. “We have to make sure we don’t get down by this loss and bounce back [tomorrow].’’