Frank Vatrano more than doubled his career goals total Friday night as the Boston Bruins demolished the Pittsburgh Penguins to sweep their two-game home-and-home series.
Vatrano notched his first NHL hat trick, Patrice Bergeron added two goals and Ryan Spooner dished out a career-high four assists in a 6-2 win that brought Boston to within three points of first place in the Atlantic Division.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Vatrano hammered a rebound past Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff at the 12:18 mark of the third period, then potted another goal exactly three minutes later to close out the scoring.
Vatrano, who managed just two goals and one assist in his first 15 games, became the first Bruins rookie to record a hat trick since Blake Wheeler did so in 2008.
UMASS NIGHT IN PITTSBURGH
A pair of Minutemen produced the game’s first two goals.
First, it was Penguins winger Conor Sheary, who beat Tuukka Rask with a wicked one-timer for his first NHL goal.
Sheary skated with Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby on Pittsburgh’s top line despite making his NHL debut just two days earlier. He later added his first NHL assist on the Penguins’ second goal.
The goal gave Pittsburgh an early 1-0 lead, but Boston quickly responded. Landon Ferraro outmuscled Ian Cole to win a battle along the boards and fed the puck to Ryan Spooner. As the Pittsburgh defense converged on Spooner, he dropped a pass back to Vatrano, who fired a shot past Zatkoff to tie the score.
Sheary, a Melrose, Mass., native, and Vatrano, who spent his formative years in East Longmeadow, Mass., both played their college hockey at UMass Amherst.
Vatrano’s goal snapped a streak of nine games without a point for the Bruins rookie.
Spooner’s four assists gave him 10 points (three goals, seven helpers) in his last six games. The center, who is not known for his physicality, also displayed a seldom-seen edge when he dropped the gloves with Patric Hornqvist after the Penguins forward leveled Dennis Seidenberg with a big hit. Hornqvist declined to reciprocate, however, resulting in a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Spooner.
The Bruins’ special teams were stellar in the win.
Bergeron scored a shorthanded goal just 63 seconds into the second period, and Loui Eriksson added his team-leading seventh power-play tally of the season later in the frame to put Boston ahead 3-2.
The Bruins were called for six minor penalties in the game, but the Penguins couldn’t capitalize on any of them. Boston went a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill and has held opponents scoreless in 50 of their last 53 power-play opportunities.
A kneeing penalty by Crosby on Brad Marchand in the opening moments of the third period wiped away a Pittsburgh power play, and Bergeron scored his second of the night just 20 seconds later.
It was Boston’s first 4-on-4 goal of the season. Crosby also picked up a hooking call later in the frame that gave the Bruins a 4-on-3 power play, but they couldn’t find the back of the net on that one.
The Penguins have lost eight of their last 10 games and have yet to win under new head coach Mike Sullivan. The Bruins, meanwhile, have earned at least a point in 13 of their last 14 games.
The Bruins kick off a three-game homestand Sunday against the New Jersey Devils. Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. ET at TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins center Frank Vatrano