PITTSBURGH — It can’t be this easy, can it?
The Bruins were road warriors again in Pittsburgh, but this time they got the job done with a high-precision offense to go along with stellar defense and goaltending.
Boston scored early, often, and now returns home with a two-games-to-none lead after a 6-1 thrashing of the top-seeded Penguins Monday night.
Fans were just getting settled in their seats at the Consol Energy Center when slumping Pens star Sidney Crosby turned over the puck and the speedy Brad Marchand fired one past Tomas Vokoun 28 seconds in the game to get the B’s off to the good start they were looking for in Game 2.
“The puck kind of bounced on [Crosby] there and went up in the air and I just came through and knocked it down,” Marchand said from his locker after the game. “And when I was going in two sticks were on me so I just wanted to make sure I got a shot off and lucky enough to get in.”
Marchand, who brought his A-game after scoring only two goals in the Bruins’ first 13 postseason contests, would score twice during a four-goal first period that left the home crowd stunned as the teams headed to the locker rooms when the first buzzer sounded.
“We wanted to make sure we had a big start, we knew they were going to come out very hard and we wanted to make sure we weathered the storm,” Marchand said. “It was nice to get a couple early and we did a good job of not letting up after that.”
The Bruins went up 2-0 in the first when Nathan Horton scored at 14:37 on a rebound off Pens net minder Tomas Vokoun.
That goal was followed by fellow linemate David Krejci at 16:31 on a rarely seen, super smooth extended passing play set it up when Horton centered it to Milan Lucic who then floated it to Krejci who hammered the puck home.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma then pulled Vokoun and replaced him with former starter Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Pens’ Brandon Sutter scored next on a strong rush up the right side, finishing up top, stick side on red-hot Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to get the Penguins within two goals and reignite the crowd.
Then came the backbreaker for Pittsburgh.
While Penguins fans were still roaring over the Sutter score, Marchand took the wind out of their sails when he fired one just under the crossbar on Fleury, killing the Pens’ momentum 25 seconds after the Pittsburgh score and sending the Penguins faithful into intermission well shaken.
“Yeah, it was good for us,” Marchand said. “They were getting some momentum off that goal there and we did a good job at kind of crushing that and it’s always a tough thing when a team scores after another one scores a big goal so we’re happy that we were able to do that.”
Milan Lucic, who chipped in with an assist on the terrific third goal of the game by Krejci, could also feel the life being sucked out of the Penguins after the fourth goal.
“Definitely the biggest goal of the game was when we got that fourth one back to get the three-goal lead,” Lucic said. “Especially late in the period. When you’re going in, if they were able to get the last one of the period, maybe they had something to create some momentum off of. But a good, hard, strong play by Jags in the defensive zone to get the puck out of the zone created that opportunity. Marshy made no mistake with his great shot there.”
Patrice Bergeron, who scored the Bruins fifth goal in the third period, also offered high praise for the player known as The Little Ball of Hate.
“[Marchand had] a jump on his step tonight, and when you see that you can tell the way he shoots the puck, also,” Bergeron said. “He finds every loose puck, and that first goal was obviously huge. They had a good shift before that breakaway, and it was important to get that first one. And carried that along with that second goal, which was a huge goal again to keep going.”
Bruins offensive defenseman Johnny Boychuk rounded out the scoring for Boston in the third when he slammed one home with a purpose to make it 6-1 which cleared out the remaining diehards in the CEC in a hurry.
On the Pens’ side it was nothing but frustration and another disappointing night for the stars as Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held scoreless for the second night in a row.
“Tonight was just terrible. There’s no other way to describe it,” Crosby said. “A loss is a loss. It’s frustrating but you don’t really like giving them one like that. We didn’t do a lot of things to give ourselves a chance to win. This one we have to forget pretty quickly and find a way to dig ourselves out of this hole going to Boston.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien was pleased to see his team get off to a quick start offensively.
“We knew they were going to be a better team, and we had to be better than we were the last game in here,” Julien said. “So we didn’t have a better start anyways. And we got some good bounces go our way and because of that we were able to establish a lead and then we just kind of took it from there. But sometimes those forecheck bounces go your way, and they did tonight.”
Bergeron, who again came through winning 67 percent of the faceoffs, talked about the importance of having four lines contributing throughout the postseason.
“We’ve been relying on four lines all year and throughout the playoffs and the same thing right here,” Bergeron said. “They have a lot of depth as well. So we need to make sure we’re ready for what we’re up against. And every line is responsible and talks a lot on the ice to communicate. And they’re establishing that we all have some good chemistries. We’re linemates, so we’ve gotta keep that going.”
An energized Jaromir Jagr, who finished with two assists and was awarded the Army Rangers jacket as the Bruins player of the game, agreed with the four line strategy.
“Probably the key is our coach running four lines,” Jagr said. “All four lines, they’re able to score goals and defend so this is our advantage. Through my experience, I’ve never really played on a team where all four lines can play that good so that’s a huge advantage in the playoffs.”
Bergeron knows that two wins doesn’t mean the Penguins will go down without a fight in Boston.
“They have a lot of experience,” he said. “They’re a team that we know that they’re going to try to bounce back and we need to make sure we’re ready. They’re a really good team, we respect them and we know it’s not over. We need to make sure we keep it going and stay in the game and take it by moment. And we’ve been doing it so far, and it’s all about Game 3 now.”
Julien said he was not concerned with his team being too comfortable with a 2-0 lead and playing the next two on the home ice.
“If anything, being up 2-0 you’ve got to be happy,” Julien said. “But the concerns are going to be in our game and after every game, we critique it with the players. And it’s not so much about what we’re doing well, we’ve gotta compete to do that, but there’s areas you want to improve after every game, and we’re a team that’s responded well to that.”
Marchand also wasn’t buying that the Penguins might be dead and buried after losing the first two at home, something they hadn’t done since the first two games of the regular season.
“We’re happy with the outcome but it’s going to be very tough to go home, we know they’re going to come out extremely hard and we have to make sure we’re ready for that…,” Marchand said. “It doesn’t matter what the series is at right now, if they get the next one, they’re right back in it. The next one is the one that’s most important.”
Although he wasn’t tested nearly as much as he was in Game 1, Rask was poised and well-positioned in net for the second straight night, turning back 26 shots by the Penguins.
“Tuukka stood tall and made a lot of saves at the right time,” Marchand said. “We just want to make sure we collapse low and try to take away lanes.”
The numbers are also working in the Bruins favor. The last 16 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the conference finals moved on to the finals. The last team to buck that trend was the Penguins, who hope to turn the clocks back to 1991 when they bounced back from a 2-0 deficit against the Bruins to win their first Stanley Cup championship.
“Don’t be complacent,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said after the two game road sweep. “We’re not satisfied with just two wins. Two wins doesn’t make a series. We want to go back with the mindset to win a game.”
Puck drops Wednesday night at about 8:18 p.m. for Game 3 at the Garden.