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Penguins 3, Bruins 0

Punching out

Bruins land blows but fail to work

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 19, 2010

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At 11:43 of the second period, after inquiring with Michael Rupp several seconds earlier, Zdeno Chara flung his stick aside, threw down his gloves, and started his first fight of 2009-10.

Against a team featuring one of the NHL’s most dynamic offensive machines in Sidney Crosby, Chara’s 6-foot-9-inch presence is required more on the ice than in the penalty box.

But the Bruins captain had seen enough from his droopy teammates — the Penguins held a 13-3 second-period shot advantage by then — that he believed his time was better spent throwing punches and sitting in the box.

“At that point, we had nothing, basically, in the second,’’ said Chara, his team trailing, 1-0, at the time. “We got locked in our zone for a few shifts in a row where we didn’t even touch the puck.

“I felt it was the right moment for our team to bring some energy back and some emotion.’’

Chara’s scrap was a waste, though. Seventeen seconds later, Mark Stuart was sent off for hooking. Then at 17:44, Steve Begin was called for kneeing. One second after the Bruins killed Begin’s penalty, Pittsburgh’s Alexei Ponikarovsky tipped a Kris Letang one-timer past Tuukka Rask.

Then in the third, after blocking a Patrice Bergeron shot, Rupp went the other way and snapped a shot through Rask at 5:14. To cap off a rotten night in which they put only 17 sleepy pucks on Marc-Andre Fleury, the Bruins were called for a shades-of-Dave Lewis too-many-men infraction at 16:28, a humiliating send-off to an embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Penguins before 17,565 fans — the few who remained by the end let their displeasure be known — at TD Garden last night.

“That’s what you get when you don’t perform,’’ Chara said of the boos. “For sure, we didn’t tonight. They have the right to do that. They have the right to show their disappointment.

“These fans are some of the best. They come here to see us play and work hard. They have a lot of emotion. If we don’t give it to them, then for sure they’ll show it.’’

Chara’s fight should have been one of several emotional flashpoints for the Bruins. They were playing their first match at TD Garden since closing out a seven-game road trip by besting a JV Carolina club on Tuesday, 5-2. Before the game, when the Bruins honored the 1970 Stanley Cup team, every player and coach emerged from the dressing room to shake the alums’ hands.

And oh yeah, Shawn Thornton addressed that whole Matt Cooke thing.

Several seconds after Cooke, whose blind-side shot to Marc Savard’s head has left the Boston center reeling, rolled over the boards for his first shift, Thornton came calling. Cooke, knowing what was coming, accepted Thornton’s challenge, and the two dropped their gloves at 1:58 of the first period.

“He did the right thing in stepping up, being a man, and getting his gloves off,’’ said Thornton.

“I’m still not happy with the way he plays some games. But I guess yeah, I was surprised a little bit. You’d have to ask them, but I think some of their older guys might have helped him out. I don’t know.’’

First, Thornton asked Cooke, who wears a shield, if he wanted to get rid of his helmet. Cooke declined, but once the two came together, Thornton clawed his opponent’s helmet off.

Thornton landed several punches and scored the takedown. As Cooke hit the ice, Thornton landed several more rights while linesmen Brian Murphy and Anthony Sericolo tried to separate the two. Both were tagged with fighting majors, and Thornton was called for a 10-minute misconduct for the late punches.

“Thorny took care of business right off the hop,’’ Milan Lucic said. “It was good of Thorny to step up and do whatever he had to do.’’

The fight jazzed up the crowd, but the Bruins never got any lift from Thornton’s fight. While Tyler Kennedy beat Rask with an over-the-glove snapper at 8:34, the Bruins put only five first-period pucks on Fleury. Before three minutes had gone by in the second, the Penguins had assaulted Rask (28 saves) with eight high-quality shots.

“That’s disappointing,’’ Thornton said of how the Bruins wilted after both fights. “I don’t think we had the energy all night. Not only with mine, but after our captain stepped up and comes to battle. He doesn’t have to do that.

“I’m on the ice. I was more than willing. But he wanted it to try and get the guys going. For us to not bring the energy after that was also disappointing. I’m not very happy with the way the game went tonight.’’

Coach Claude Julien noted that a handful of players were suffering from flu-like symptoms. Marco Sturm (one shot in 11:14 of ice time) didn’t play in the third because he was sick. Blake Wheeler (zero shots) and Dennis Wideman (only 17:24 of ice time) were also playing through illness.

“Just no energy,’’ said Julien. “At the same time, we couldn’t make plays. It just seemed to go hand in hand.

“I’m not making excuses for our poor outing. It wasn’t a very good hockey game. We certainly defended our teammate well. But the other part of the game wasn’t there.’’

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