The Bruins had stormed back in the final frame twice in Pittsburgh this year, scoring five unanswered goals in the third for a 7-4 win on Nov. 10 and striking for four goals in the final 3:23 for a 4-2 win on Monday.
It looked like Boston might have another rally at the ready on Saturday when Pittsburgh paid its first visit of the year to the Garden. The Bruins erased a 2-0 deficit in the second when Dennis Seidenberg and Michael Ryder scored 13 seconds apart.
But the Penguins struck again with a Jordan Staal goal 3:25 into the third, and this time the Bruins had no answer despite a 20-11 edge in shots in the final period and a season-high 46 shots overall.
“It is tough. I thought we had really good chances though,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “A few times we got the puck through to [Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre] Fleury and it was so close that we just needed that little bounce, but it’s tough. If you’re in that position that you always have to come chasing and trying to get that even goal or winning goal, it’s tough to do it every night. But I thought we were in good position still to tie the game.”
The Bruins actually attempted 74 shots in the game, but 16 were blocked by Pittsburgh defenders and another 12 missed the net.
That wasn’t the only thing off the mark. The Bruins also were charged with 16 giveaways to just five by the Penguins. Many of those turnovers led to Pittsburgh odd-man breaks and even clean breakaways, and only some strong work by Tuukka Rask (33 saves) kept the Bruins within striking range.
“You know guys there’s times where it’s unfortunate you lose a game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I think the biggest thing for me is the fact that first half of the game we didn’t manage the puck well. We didn’t make good puck decisions in that first half and I really didn’t think we had our game going. Then all of a sudden in the second half we started picking it up again. I’m convinced that had we played 60 minutes like the last 30 we wouldn’t be sitting here looking at a loss.”
Turnovers aside, Julien was happy with the effort his club put in, particularly on defense where the Bruins were already without Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference, and had Steven Kampfer go out with a broken nose from a high stick in the first minute of the second period.
“But you know it’s just because we weren’t managing the puck well,” Julien said. “It didn’t mean the effort wasn’t there. And I thought the effort was there and I thought the focus was there to win the hockey game tonight. And I mean unfortunately we had a lot of chances where pucks went through Fleury and instead of ending up in the net they either hit the post or the side of the net or trickled wide. But you know maybe a little snake bitten in that area tonight as far as getting that goal that we wanted but I think the effort was there. And I think the guys really gave it a good shot there, especially in the third period.”
There were positive signs, most notably with some solid work by the top line of Marc Savard, Nathan Horton and Ryder. They combined for 17 shots, with Ryder scoring on one of his seven and Savard contributing an assist.
“I think that we generated a lot tonight,” Ryder said. “We found the net and we were trying to get those rebounds. They did a good job clearing those pucks. They’re a good team on the other side and we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. We battled right to the end and there were a lot of good things that we did.”
The Bruins also got plenty of energy from the revamped fourth line. With Brad Marchand now up with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, the fourth line has been reshuffled with Daniel Paille skating alongside Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
That trio help set up Boston’s other goal, with Campbell and Thornton earning assists and Paille providing the screen in front for Seidenberg’s strike from the point. Campbell also sparked the team late in the first with a spirited scrap with Craig Adams.
It wasn’t enough for a victory, but it does give the Bruins something to build off as they head into an important home-and-home series with Carolina on Monday and Tuesday.
“Unfortunately you’re not going to win every game in this league and I think there’s a lot of things, a lot of positive things we can take from that game,” Campbell said. “We had an awful lot of chances and we played hard for the majority of the game so you know sometimes breaks are going to go here and there for the other team. And they played well so we just have to hold our heads high and take the positives and go back to work. We have two big games coming up back to back here.”