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Bruins 7, Penguins 4

Bruins erupt in third

Five-goal burst sinks Penguins

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By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / November 11, 2010

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PITTSBURGH — Over the course of 60 minutes last night, the Bruins went from eyesore to eye-popping, and the transformation added up to a somewhat wacky 7-4 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins that saw the Bruins erase a 4-2 deficit before a crowd of 18,113 at the CONSOL Energy Center.

The victory, which ended Boston’s 0-1-1 skid, was delivered by the strength of a five-goal third period, with strongman Shawn Thornton ripping home the winner with 7:20 remaining. The goal was his third this season and unofficially set a personal best for the longest puck lug of the winger’s career.

“What are you watching?’’ bellowed Thornton in mock anger when a visitor to the Boston dressing room noted the long-distance carry, which had him racing up right wing after nudging the puck away from Alex Goligoski in the Boston end of the ice. “Maybe you ought to stop calling us the fourth line now?’’

It was a lighthearted and relieved crowd in the dressing room, which numbered 15 players who picked up at least one point. Only Daniel Paille, Mark Stuart, and Andrew Ference had 0-0—0 next to their names at night’s end. And seven of them divvied up the goals, Mark Recchi, Brad Marchand (unassisted), Nathan Horton, Zdeno Chara, Thornton, Blake Wheeler, and Milan Lucic (empty-netter).

But the underlying truth, once again, was the Bruins started the night with their burner dialed down to near pilot-light level, and the Penguins nearly blew them out. The Bruins were badly outplayed early in their losses to Washington and St. Louis, and they again stumbled out of the gate here, falling behind by a goal (Arron Asham) with only 65 seconds gone. Then they really dug themselves a hole in the late stages of the second period when Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby strikes provided the Penguins with a 4-2 lead that they carried into the intermission.

Stuart was especially error-plagued on the third and fourth Pittsburgh strikes. Kunitz walked into a gift when Stuart tried to clear a puck out of the crease and instead dished it directly to the onrushing winger, who made the easy putback from Tim Thomas’s doorstep. With 23 seconds to go before the break, Stuart scored an own goal when he attempted to cut off a Crosby pass for Evgeni Malkin and errantly popped it right past Thomas.

Those two boo-boos, and the general lethargy through two periods, led coach Claude Julien to some stern words between periods.

“It’s not often you win a hockey game by playing only one period,’’ noted Julien. “We were a team with a lot of flaws tonight in the first two periods. We didn’t get pucks in deep. They were winning the battles. They won the races. After a while, you have to call a spade a spade. We weren’t competing to the level we should and it’s unacceptable to compete like that.’’

All of that changed abruptly and dramatically with the third-period outburst, which began with the Horton and Chara strikes only 15 seconds apart in the opening four minutes. Horton cleverly picked a puck off the rear wall, skated backward to the left circle, and snapped a sharp wrister to the far side.

Chara, who rarely joins offensive rushes, smacked home a knuckler from the slot at 4:04 after jumping into a rush and being fed a short dish by Jordan Caron. Tied, 4-4.

“I think we learned a lesson that we have to get in the game earlier and not get ourselves in that position,’’ said Thomas, who faced 46 shots, blocking all 12 in the third when his club staged the comeback. “That said, it’s good to see that we can do this.’’

Thornton’s tiebreaker had him cleverly step in and grab the puck from Goligoski as the Penguins attempted to rim a pass around the boards in the Boston end. He raced up ice with linemate Marchand on his left side of a two-on-one and snapped a sizzling wrister to the top right corner. It was reminiscent of earlier in the night when Marchand sniped a wrister to the same side after picking off a Kunitz pass in the neutral zone.

“Yeah,’’ deadpanned Thornton, “I decided not to give it to March, just like he decided not to give it to me when he made his shot off the two-on-one.’’

With 4:47 to go, Wheeler, playing his first game at center in David Krejci’s absence, rushed to the paint and smacked in a backhander after Recchi’s masterful play on the rear board had him sending in a clean feed. Finally, with 26 seconds to go, Lucic slammed home the empty-netter.

“That’s the way we want to play from the start,’’ said a relieved Julien, whose club takes on the Canadiens tonight on Causeway Street. “We want to get it in deep, force turnovers — you saw a lot of that in the third period. As a team, sometimes we try to be too fancy, and when we do, we’re turning it over and getting into trouble.’’

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