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Penguins 2, Bruins 1

Bruins can’t get momentum

Fleury, Penguins keep them down

Matt Cooke barges between goalie Tim Thomas and Joe Corvo to score what ended up the winning goal for Pittsburgh. Matt Cooke barges between goalie Tim Thomas and Joe Corvo to score what ended up the winning goal for Pittsburgh. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / February 5, 2012
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At 6:45 of yesterday’s third period, the Bruins finally had some hope. Joe Corvo had beaten the previously perfect Marc-Andre Fleury with a shot from the point, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-1.

The energy within the team and inside TD Garden, however, vanished on the next shift. Just 43 seconds after Corvo’s goal, Benoit Pouliot was sent to the box for high-sticking Brooks Orpik, saddling the Bruins with a momentum-sapping penalty kill.

The sequence captured the state of the Bruins, who dropped a 2-1 result to the Penguins. There were many good parts to their game. But a few too many bad things to produce the sought-after result.

The Bruins, who lost a 3-0 dud to Carolina Thursday night, are in a two-game losing streak for the first time since December. That time, the Bruins lost back-to-back games to Winnipeg and Florida.

“You’ve got to start building on the positives,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “I thought our effort was better. Our focus was better. There were a couple of areas that we need to continue to improve on. But if our guys go back out [today at Washington] and give that same effort, we’re going to turn this around.’’

Yesterday, Corvo snapped a 21-game goal-scoring drought. The play started when Patrice Bergeron won a puck battle in the left corner against Craig Adams. Bergeron turned his back to Adams, protected the puck, and sent a pass up the boards to Corvo at the left point.

As Corvo prepared to shoot, Brad Marchand engaged Milan Michalek in a net-front tangle. Marchand gained body position on Michalek and got his body in front of Fleury. At the same time, Corvo snapped a wrist shot through Marchand’s screen - Fleury didn’t appear to spot the defenseman’s release - and found the back of the net.

“Marchand did a great job standing in front of him until the last minute until [the shot] got to the net,’’ Corvo said. “It was the right height. The goalie was staying low, trying to see it. It just went in.’’

But Corvo was also culpable for the winning goal earlier in the third. Tim Thomas had turned aside a Dustin Jeffrey backhander. Thomas steered the rebound toward the corner. But Pascal Dupuis was in the right place to step in front of Thomas’s clearing bid. As Dupuis shoveled the puck into the slot, Corvo stood on the lip of the crease and tried to clear it away.

As Corvo attempted to whack the puck out of danger, Matt Cooke barreled into the crease with little resistance. With Corvo flat-footed, Cooke bulled into Thomas’s office and jammed in the winner at 1:53.

In the first period, Evgeni Malkin had scored Pittsburgh’s first goal on a power-play rebound with 8.1 seconds remaining in the period.

“The goal against, he’s standing in front of the net, and you hope he had a better battle on that,’’ Julien said of Corvo. “But he’s no different than everybody else that’s going through this. We’ve got to improve ourselves as individuals if we want to be a better hockey club.’’

Yesterday, the best individual was Fleury. The Pittsburgh puck-stopper kicked out 28 shots. Fleury’s finest stop was his final save. With half a minute remaining in regulation, Orpik muffed a puck in the defensive zone. Marchand swooped in and put a close-range shot on goal. Fleury flashed his right pad and booted out the potential game-tying strike.

Fleury also benefited from some whiffs. On the opening shift of the second, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin had good looks from the slot. Both forwards winged their shots wide of the net.

“He made some really nice stops,’’ Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “He’s one of the top goalies. Every goalie we face is a top goalie if you’re playing at this level. But he played extremely well. You know when he sees the puck, he’s going to stop most of them.’’

But Fleury didn’t face the down-low heat the Bruins would have preferred to apply. After two periods, 14 of the Bruins’ 20 shots were credited to their defensemen. Julien was pleased that the point men were sneaking shots through traffic and placing them on Fleury. But the forwards weren’t battling hard enough in front to generate the chances that are usually more dangerous than the attempts from the point.

“Fourteen shots in two periods is a good job from our D’s to get those shots through,’’ Julien said. “We had to do a better job in front of the net if we were getting our shots through. Where were the screens? Where were the rebounds and that kind of stuff?

“We had to do a better job there as well. Those are two areas you look at. Offensively, we’re going to have to work on that part of our game. Defensively, we were much better. Our backcheck, D-zone posture, a lot of things were very good.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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