Tuesday NHL action on the NBC Sports Network features an East Division showdown between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins.
Pittsburgh won their sixth game in a row last night in a 4-1 victory against the Bruins. The Penguins fell behind in the game but responded with four unanswered goals to cruise to the commanding victory. Tristan Jarry had 42 saves. The win pulled Pittsburgh within three points of Washington for second place in the East Division with 37 points.
The Penguins have dominated both ends of the ice during their six-game winning streak. They have scored 25 times during this run, while allowing only nine goals. The Pens have scored on the power play in three straight games. They have successfully killed 13 of the 16 opponent power plays.
Pittsburgh’s improved play has coincided with a shakeup in upper management. Long-time general manager Jim Rutherford resigned in early February. Former Philadelphia Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall got hired as his replacement on February 9th, with veteran general manager Brian Burke (who oversaw Anaheim’s Stanley Cup title in 2007) was brought in as the new President of Hockey Operations. The Penguins have won 13 of their 17 games since the wake-up call.
Sidney Crosby leads the team with 11 goals and 18 assists. Jake Guentzel has 11 goals and 15 assists. Evgeni Malin has added 8 goals with 16 assists.
Casey DeSmith has been named tonight’s goaltender, with Jarry playing last night. The Pens’ backup is 6-2-0 this season, with a 2.23 goals-against-average and .912 save percentage in nine games (eight starts). In his two starts this month, DeSmith has a 0.50 goals-against-average, with a .979 save percentage and two victories.
Boston is moving in the opposite direction with losses in four of their last five games and five in seven contests. The Bruins are 4-7-2 in their last 13 games after last night’s setback. They remain in fourth place in the East with 32 points, five points behind Pittsburgh.
A lack of scoring punch is a source of the problem. Boston has scored two goals or less in seven of their last ten games. They have not scored more than one goal in five of seven games, and they have been shutout twice in their last five games. Bruce Cassidy called on his team to get more aggressive after their 4-0 shutout loss at home against the New York Rangers on Saturday. The Bruins produced 20 shots in the first period last night and 43 shots overall, but they only scored the opening goal.
The team's big three are doing their part. Brad Marchand has 12 goals and 20 assists. Patrice Bergeron has added 10 goals and 14 assists. David Pastrnak has contributed 12 goals and 11 assists.
Daniel Vladar will make his NHL debut in goal tonight for the Bruins after Jaroslav Halak tended the net last night. Tuukka Rask is unavailable with a back injury. Vladar is a former third-round draft pick in 2015.
Boston leads the season series after winning the first two encounters between these two teams. Last night’s game got chippy late, which may have foreshadowed some fireworks tonight. BookMaker lists Pittsburgh as a -118 money line favorite with the total set at 5.5.
Computer prediction: Penguins 4 Bruins 3