PITTSBURGH – Boston strong indeed.
Brad Marchand scored twice during a four-goal first period and the Boston Bruins routed the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-1 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.
David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk also scored for Boston, which hardly broke a sweat while going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Tuukka Rask kept Sidney Crosby and the rest of the NHL’s top offense in check once again, stopping 26 shots.
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Boston.
Brandon Sutter scored Pittsburgh’s goal. Tomas Vokoun gave up three first-period goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Marc-Andre Fleury.
The move did little to blunt the momentum in what has quickly become a one-sided series. Boston held Pittsburgh’s top-ranked power play scoreless for the second straight game, and the Bruins looked like the team marked as the Stanley Cup favorites, not the star-laden Penguins.
Boston insisted it was fortunate to escape Game 1 with a 3-0 victory, saying a couple of bounces could have changed the course of the game dramatically.
The Penguins blamed their choppy play, including a rare fight by Evgeni Malkin, on an eight-day layoff, stressing there was no need to panic.
Might be time to start now.
The last 16 teams to go up 2-0 in the conference finals have advanced to the Cup finals. The Penguins managed to escape a 2-0 hole against the Bruins in 1991 on their way to the franchise’s first championship.
These days Mario Lemieux is relegated to watching from the owner’s box. At the moment, the view isn’t pretty.
Marchand took advantage of a sloppy play by Crosby to give Boston the lead just 28 seconds into the game. Crosby attempted to flip a bouncing puck back into Boston’s zone. Marchand casually flipped it out of the air, then streaked in on Vokoun before putting a wrist shot over Vokoun’s glove.
The Bruins — and Marchand — were just getting started.
Boston poured in two more goals to rattle the Stanley Cup favorites and end Vokoun’s run through the postseason. Not that Vokoun had much help from the guys in front of him.
Kris Letang failed to clear the puck at the end of a Boston power play and Torey Krug kept it in and fired a slap shot at the net. Neither Vokoun, Letang or Paul Martin could grab it and Horton reached down and tapped it in between a sea of sticks to make it 2-0.
Krejci’s eighth goal of the postseason pushed it to 3-0, though his shot was the easy part. Jaromir Jagr and Bergeron took care of the hard part, dismantling Pittsburgh’s defense with a series of slick passes that left the NHL’s leading playoff scorer all by his lonesome in front of the Pittsburgh net.
The score put an abrupt end to Vokoun’s hot streak. The 36-year-old journeyman won six of his first seven starts after replacing a shaky Fleury in the opening series against the New York Islanders. He was hardly to blame for the loss in the opener against Boston, but Pittsburgh Coach Dan Bylsma nodded at Fleury after Krejci’s goal.
Fleury returned to a warm ovation and for a moment it gave Pittsburgh a jolt. Sutter snapped a wrist shot over Rask’s stick with 34 seconds left in the first period and the Penguins appeared to have life.
Marchand quickly snuffed it out, rifling a shot over Fleury’s outstretched glove to restore Boston’s four-goal edge.
That was more than enough. Way more.
The Bruins allowed five goals in a game only three times all season. The Penguins never even came close to getting two as the NHL’s highest-scoring team had trouble getting out of its own way. Players collided, tripped over themselves and seemed unable to generate any kind of momentum.
Of course, Boston had something to do with that. The Bruins squeezed away all the open ice Pittsburgh enjoyed while racing to the league’s second-best record. Boston blocked shots, poke-checked and pushed the Penguins all over the ice.
The boos grew to a dull roar when Pittsburgh flubbed a second-period power play. They dissipated late, if only because so many left after Bergeron’s goal made it 5-1 only 27 seconds into the third period. There’s a chance it may be the last home game of the season. The Penguins need to win at least one of two in Boston to force a Game 5.