On Sunday, the Boston Bruins will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center (12:30 pm ET, NBC) – here’s a look at recent history between the two clubs.
Pittsburgh: 41-21-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division. Leading scorer: Evgeni Malkin (38G-43A-81PTS)
Boston: 40-24-3, 1st in Northeast Division. Leading scorer: Tyler Seguin (24G-31A-55PTS)/Patrice Bergeron (19G-36A-55PTS)
Dec. 5, 2011 – Bruins 3, Penguins 1. In what would be Sidney Crosby’s final contest before he returned to the sidelines due to concussion-like symptoms, Tim Thomas saved 45 shots, including 39 in the final 40 minutes.
The win extended the Bruins’ incredible run to 14-0-1. Just a day later, they lost in regulation for the first time in over a month. Crosby managed five shots on goal and logged 21:03 minutes of playing time, but was held off the scoresheet.
The Penguins also had a scary moment during the game when Crosby and teammate Chris Kunitz collided at center ice in the third period. Crosby was slow to skate back to the bench after the incident.
Following the game, Crosby was initially held out for what the team described as precautionary reasons, but it later became clear that he would be sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time. Although his collision with Kunitz was one of the last things to happen before Crosby was sidelined, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma later said that Crosby’s condition wasn’t caused by a specific hit.
Feb. 4, 2012 – Penguins 2, Bruins 1. Tim Thomas was solid once again, but that wasn’t enough as the Penguins’ struck back.
Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 28 shots to earn his ninth straight victory.
“Marc was exceptional,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “He was able to control the rebounds and limit the opportunities they had.”
After failing to record a point in their previous match against Boston, Malkin netted a power-play goal with just nine seconds remaining in the first period to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Matt Cooke scored the game-winning goal, much to the ire of The Garden crowd, who booed him for his hit on Marc Savard nearly two years earlier.
Boston’s loss marked the first time since early December that they had suffered consecutive defeats. Boston was shaky throughout the month of February. On the flipside, this victory was the lone bright spot in the Penguins’ 1-2-1 road trip.
Two major Stanley Cup contenders clash
Although no playoff-bound squad, least of all the first place New York Rangers, should be counted out in March, an Eastern Conference Finals between the Penguins and Bruins certainly seems plausible. Boston has been mediocre lately, in part because of the absence of Nathan Horton (concussion), but they are still largely the same team that lifted the Stanley Cup in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have shown a remarkable ability to overcome injuries. They have the second best record in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that their best player has been limited to eight games. As they are, the Penguins seem poised to make a serious push for the Cup, but if they get Crosby back in time for the playoffs, then they might become the hardest team in the league to beat.