Twice this season the Pittsburgh Penguins (27-14-4) carried two-goal leads into the third period in their games against the Boston Bruins (23-12-7), at home, and twice the leads vanished in a flurry of goals. In November, the Bruins defeated the Pens 7-4 with 5 goals in the third period to erase a 4-2 lead and, on Monday, the Bruins scored 4 unanswered goals in the last three minutes to win 4-2. The two teams will meet again but, this time, in Boston’s home rink. Will the change in venue help the Pens?
After their first meltdown against Boston, the Penguins went on to gain points in fifteen consecutive games and they bounced back well this time too, defeating the Canadiens in Montreal. Pittsburgh will still be without the services of Sidney Crosby, who has been out with a mild concussion since January 6. Crosby’s absence has hurt the Pens as they have gone 1-2-1 without him in the line-up. Defensemen Kris Letang (7, 33) and Alex Goligowski (9, 17) have displayed some offense in his absence and the return of C Jordan Staal has helped too. The Pens, though, really need Evgeni Malkin to step-up his game and lead the team as he did when Crosby was hurt in 2008-2009.
Boston has been playing well as of late with a 6-1-3 record in their last ten. They have allowed a league low 93 goals and lead the Northeast Division by Montreal by just two points. Tim Thomas has been outstanding in net and he’ll probably get the start in goal. Thomas has six shutouts and a sparkling 1.77 GAA. The Bruins present a balanced attack led by LW Milan Lucic (16, 12).
This game is about revenge so look for the Penguins to come out flying but, when the game settles down, the loss of Crosby will be telling as both teams will struggle to score goals. Look for Thomas to up Fleury in a battle of goalies.