Last year, Pittsburgh found just about every way imaginable to torture the Bruins. There was the mid-November game when Bill Guerin forced overtime with a goal with 0.4 seconds left in regulation, then Pascal Dupuis scored off a Tim Thomas turnover in the extra session for a 6-5 win.
Then came the insult added after injury. The injury came as a result of Matt Cooke's brutal cheap shot on Marc Savard late in the Penguins' 2-1 win in Pittsburgh on March 7, leaving the Bruins center with a severe concussion. The insult was applied with the Bruins' pitiful response in the "revenge game" back in a Boston on March 18, a thoroughly humiliating 3-0 Penguins victory.
But it has been Pittsburgh's turn to feel embarrassed this year, as the Bruins have twice stormed back to beat the Penguins with third-period rallies in the Penguins' new barn. On Nov. 10, the Bruins entered the final frame trailing 4-2, only to score five unanswered goals in the third period for a 7-4 victory.
Then this past Monday, the Bruins pulled off an even more dramatic comeback. They trailed 2-0 going into the third, but finally awoke with a four-goal outburst in the final 3:23 to post a 4-2 victory.
The Bruins have outscored the mighty Pens 9-0 in the third period in two meetings, and Pittsburgh will be coming to Boston for the first time on Saturday afternoon bent on exacting some payback of their own.
"They had the lead on us for the two games down there and we found a way to battle back," Bruins forward Daniel Paille said after practice on Friday. "I think they're going to be showing some anger and try to play 60 minutes against us. So we need to respond well and not give up."
Fellow forward Patrice Bergeron agreed, and expects beating the Penguins for a third time to be an even stiffer challenge, even with Sidney Crosby sidelined with a concussion.
"It's going to be a tough game," Bergeron said. "Obviously they're going to want revenge. We did it twice in their building so they're going to want this one pretty bad. We have to make sure we're ready to play hard. We've seen the highlights from their game in Montreal, and they played with some fire, so obviously they're going to be ready for us."
Yes, the Bruins have to be concerned that they may have awoken a sleeping giant — again. After that November loss to Boston, the Penguins went on a 14-0-1 run that included a 12-game winning streak. After Monday's stunner, Pittsburgh responded with a dominating 5-2 win at Montreal on Wednesday, scoring four unanswered goals over the last two periods and outshooting the Canadiens 36-22.
"They're a good hockey club," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We have a lot of respect for those guys. We know that there's some character there. A lot of guys on that team have won Stanley Cups, so they know want it takes to bear down and make it happen. I think the proof was there in Montreal in the last game. There was no doubt they were the better team, and we shouldn't expect anything different [Saturday]. They're going to come back. We beat them twice in their building, so there's extra motivation for them to come into our building and want to do the same."
The Bruins better be wary of the Penguins, but at least they can take some pride in knowing they're finally the ones giving their opponent a reason to be incensed in this rivalry.