For the second time in these playoffs, double overtime was double trouble for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Patrice Bergeron scored on a redirection from the slot with 4:41 left in the second sudden-death session, sending the Boston Bruins to an epic 2-1 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins now have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 set for Friday night in Boston.
Brad Marchand, who scored two goals in Monday’s Game 2, set up the winning play after Jaromir Jagr won a puck battle with Evgeni Malkin in the neutral zone. Marchand drove into the left corner and tossed the puck to the middle, where Bergeron tipped his second overtime goal of these playoffs just over the left pad of Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun.
Much like in Pittsburgh’s previous two-overtime game, a 2-1 loss to Ottawa in Game 3 of the second round, Vokoun exceeded all reasonable expectations for a goalie on the back side of his pro career. He stopped 38 shots and was every bit as good as Tuukka Rask in the Boston net, who turned away 53.
The Penguins will likely be lamenting their missed chances in overtime for awhile. In the second OT alone, Sidney Crosby had an open shot in the low slot deflected just wide, Jarome Iginla popped a slick backhand stuff just over the net and Craig Adams rang the post to Rask’s left on a blistering one-timer from the right circle.
Pittsburgh also went 0 for 6 on the power play, despite generating numerous golden scoring opportunities. The Pens had a power-play chance in each of the overtime periods, but couldn’t get a clean look at Rask. The 26-year-old Bruins goalie didn’t appear to need much help, but at least five shots drilled the goal frame behind him.
Boston went scoreless on five power-play chances themselves, but they were still able to edge the Penguins, sending them to their second 3-0 series deficit in two years. Pittsburgh trailed Philadelphia by that count in the 2012 first round, eventually losing in six games.
It’s been a frustrating series for the Penguins, who entered the East final scoring more than four goals per playoff game. They have exactly two in 11 periods against the Bruins, with Chris Kunitz netting Pittsburgh’s only Game 3 tally to counter David Krejci’s early strike.
Despite his late turnover, Malkin was probably the best skater on the ice, recording 10 shots in nearly 34 minutes of ice time. Crosby skated 35:01, a team high for forwards, but neither he nor Malkin could generate their first point of the series, although Crosby won the faceoff that led to the Kunitz’ goal.
The Penguins will now have to do what only three NHL teams have ever done, win four straight to overcome a three-game hole. The only heartening thing about their situation is that the Bruins were the last team to blow such a lead, in 2010 against the Flyers. The Pens will try to stay alive at 8 p.m. Friday, hoping to at least force a Game 5 Sunday in Pittsburgh.
The Bruins took advantage of a fortunate break to net the opening goal for the third straight game. Milan Lucic poked the puck behind the net to Krejci, who stepped out to the bottom of the left circle and attempted to pass back to Lucic, who went to the crease. Instead, the feed deflected off the skate of Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen and behind the surprised Vokoun at 1:42.
Undeterred by the tough bounce – and a benching in Game 2 – Vokoun turned in a strong first period. Point-blank stops on Marchand and defenseman Torey Krug highlighted a nine-save effort that kept the Penguins within range.
Two consecutive Pittsburgh power plays at the start of the second period seemed to loosen Boston’s grasp on the game, culminating in Kunitz’ fifth goal of the postseason 8:51 into the frame. Crosby won an offensive-zone faceoff which hopped back to blueliner Paul Martin, who looked like he was going to circle the Bruins’ net. However, he flipped a perfect pass to Kunitz at the left edge of the crease for a one-timer over Rask’s blocker.
The Penguins earned a third straight advantage midway through the second when the Bruins were whistled for too many men on the ice, but they couldn’t beat the steadfast Rask despite numerous high-quality scoring chances. Boston’s Finnish netminder made his best stop on Malkin a few minutes later, denying his forehand move and getting help from Zdeno Chara, who swept the rebound away from a charging Iginla.
Vokoun answered Rask save for save in the second, denying multiple Bruins rushes down the wings. Boston earned its second power play on an Iginla tripping penalty near the end of the period, but Vokoun kicked out a Chara slap shot just before the siren sounded to end the stanza.
The Penguins had two Bruins power plays to kill in a tense third period, and they did with ease. Pittsburgh dominated the third period, outshooting Boston 14-4 in last 20 minutes of regulation, but Malkin and Brooks Orpik hit posts and Rask denied Kris Letang from in close off a sweet setup from Crosby.
Malkin had another great look early in the first overtime, when Pascal Dupuis freed up the puck into the slot. However, Rask barely managed to squeeze his pads together to keep the Bruins afloat. Moments later, a Letang turnover led to a partial breakaway chance for Boston’s Nathan Horton that Vokoun came out and denied.
Beau Bennett was tripped in the neutral zone by Chris Kelly at 8:27, but the Bruins killed the first overtime advantage with relative ease, allowing only one shot on Rask. Horton drilled the right post on a transition opportunity near the midpoint of the period, and further Boston puck possession resulted in two power plays late in the frame.