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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bruins Head Into the All-Star Break Feeling Much Better After Rallying to Beat the Penguins 4-3

In a sign of dare I say gradual progress, the Bruins (25-21-6) proved that Tuesday's night fantastic overtime win vs. Detroit (20-20-9) was more than a fluke. Tonight, they topped those two points with a rock solid 4-3 victory over the defending champs from Pittsburgh (30-13-5) at TD Garden. What made this particular result even more impressive (besides the fact that the Penguins destroyed them 5-1 on Sunday and had also beaten them earlier in the season) was that Boston spotted them a 2-0 lead in the first period.

The Bruins had lost their physical identity over the last few forgettable seasons but at least in the second period this evening, their emotional side came out against the Penguins (in a good way). They outscored Pittsburgh 3-0 in the second and both teams scored a goal in the third as Boston won consecutive games for the first time in 2017 (Dec. 29-31, 2016 was the last instance) and back-to-back home games for the first time since Nov. 27-Dec. 5 when they won three in a row.

Brandon Carlo had a night to forget for the Bruins: he kicked in Justin Schultz's centering pass for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead at 7:37, picked up a cross-checking penalty that led to Phil Kessel's power play goal (2-0 Penguins lead) and then left in the third period with an undisclosed injury. Woof. Schultz's goal was his eighth of the season and Kessel's was his 15th of the season. Sidney Crosby (ever heard of him?) and Schultz had the helpers on Phil's one-timer that for some reason, Tuukka Rask (19 saves) was way out of position for.

Brad Marchand continued to dominate life (and avoid suspensions as he was fined the maximum $10,000 by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for slew-footing Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall) as he scored another pair of goals (giving him four in the last two games). His shorthanded goal at 1:38 of the second period cut it to 2-1 Pittsburgh and tied him for the league lead with three shorthanded goals this season. It also marked his sixth 20-goal season in the NHL. Patrice Bergeron and Kevan Miller assisted on that one then he tied it at 6:27 by putting in a rebound from David Pastrnak and Carlo.

You knew that it was Boston's night (not really but go with it) when Riley Nash tipped in a shot by Torey Krug at 10:25 of the second for a 3-2 Bruins lead. Nash's third goal of the season was also assisted by Dominic Moore. After that things got a little bonkers as Kessel and David Backes nearly got into a fight then Colin Miller destroyed UMass-Lowell's Scott Wilson in a memorable bout a few minutes later. Since Wilson initiated his own beating, he got a minor penalty which was served by Jake Guentzel. Boston was up 3-2 after two periods and had 1:13 left on the power play in the third which came in handy when Bergy roofed a loose puck past Matt Murray (33 saves). Pasta and Ryan Spooner assisted on Bergeron's 11th goal of the season.

Pittsburgh is certainly a force to be reckoned with, granted they didn't have All-Star Evgeni Malkin (lower-body injury) in the lineup for the first time in 2016-17, so it was no surprise that they refused to fold and instead made it a one-goal game at 10:35 when Patric Hornqvist knocked in a pass from Chris Kunitz for his 12th goal of the season. Boston survived two late penalties (delay of game on Matt Beleskey and tripping on Pastrnak) to earn the much-needed two points. Along with Calgary, the Bruins have played the most games in the NHL so as much as any team, they have to be thrilled to be getting a few days off to rest. Rask, Marchand and their significant others will no doubt enjoy their paid vacations in Los Angeles while everyone else figures to kick back and relax.

Boston returns to action on Tuesday (7:30, NESN) at Tampa Bay (22-22-6) before visiting Washington (33-10-6) on Wednesday (8, NBC Sports). Remember, this is the same club that's 13-9-6 on the road and just got back to .500 at home (12-12-0) with this win. Their next home game isn't until a week from Saturday (7, NESN) vs. the team that appears to be their biggest threat for third-place in the Atlantic Division-Toronto (23-15-9). With only 30 games left in the regular season, it should be an interesting ride for the B's if nothing else.

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