The Bruins played a near-perfect road game in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, winning 3-0 Saturday night over the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
Tuukka Rask (29 saves) recorded his first career playoff shutout. David Krejci (still the NHL’s leading scorer in the postseason) added two more goals while Nathan Horton had a goal and two assists. Boston improved to 4-2 on the road this postseason and Pittsburgh fell to 5-2 at home with Game 2 on Monday (8 p.m., NBCSN). The B’s were looking for a split in Pittsburgh so the importance of winning Game 1 cannot be overstated.
Krejci opened the scoring at 8:23 of the first period when his shot deflected off Paul Martin’s skate past Tomas Vokoun (27 saves). Things got very chippy in the second period with public enemy No. 1 Matt Cooke getting a game misconduct for a hit from behind on Adam McQuaid (who went to the dressing room but later returned to action). After the frame expired, Sidney Crosby set off a huge scrum by bumping into Rask. It ended with two guys that never fight – Patrice Bergeron and Evgeni Malkin – squaring off.
Boston put it away early in the third as Krejci followed up his own rebound at 4:04 and Horton made Vokoun pay for yet another rebound at 7:51. That took the life out of the building and the Penguins were left to think about bouncing back in Game 2. Pittsburgh’s top ranked power play was 0-for-4, which is a unanimous win for the Bruins. Rask got the benefit of three posts hit by Malkin, Crosby and Kunitz but it was clear by the end of the game that he was in Pittsburgh’s heads.
What they’ll be saying: Nationally it feels like everyone was picking the Penguins to win this series while, predictably, we had much more hope for them locally. Still, I don’t think anyone predicted the B’s would take Game 1, 3-0. This win by Boston snapped a six-game losing streak to Pittsburgh, plus the Bruins improved to 3-0 in Game 1s this postseason. For a series that was a week in the making, these teams certainly brought the hate right away, which is a beautiful thing. All it took was Matt Cooke’s dirty hit on Adam McQuaid then all hell broke loose after the second period ended. Pittsburgh certainly plays a physical game but for whatever reason Sidney Crosby (minus-2, with 4 penalty minutes) seemed a bit rattled. Given his checkered history and the fact that he got a game misconduct, all eyes will be on Brendan Shanahan and the NHL league office Sunday to see if Cooke gets some type of suspension. There is no need for stuff like that in the NHL. People that say fighting has no purpose in hockey would have a hard time downplaying Bergeron’s fight with Malkin. It set the tone for Boston the rest of the way plus it got Pittsburgh’s best player (Saturday at least) off the ice for five minutes. It was disappointing when the Bruins couldn’t take advantage of a three-minute power play but both teams went 0-for-4 on the power play, which is good news for the B’s. You can be sure that the Penguins will come out really hard on Monday but if the Bruins somehow could steal Game 2, they would be firmly in control.
Sidetrack: Andrew Ference’s return was seamless. He hadn’t played since Game 5 vs. Toronto, and yes, Matt Bartkowski has been fine, but Ference didn’t skip a beat.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate