In Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final, the Pittsburgh Penguins found out the perils of falling into a 2-0 hole to the Boston Bruins, losing 2-1 in double overtime to Boston Wednesday and trailing the series by a nearly insurmountable three games to none.
In a tremendous game, one of the best of the postseason, the Penguins outplayed the Bruins, outshooting them 54-40, but LW Chris Kunitz was the only Penguin that managed to get a puck past Bruins G Tuukka Rask, who has now allowed one goal or fewer in five of his last six starts. Rask now has a .940 save percentage this postseason, leaving him behind only the Kings' Jonathan Quick (.941).
While there were some questions raised about which goaltender would start Game Three for Pittsburgh, there was no doubt that Tomas Vokoun was the right decision. He stopped 38 of 40 shots in the game and has a .931 save percentage in the playoffs.
Just as he was in Game Seven of the first round against Toronto, C Patrice Bergeron played the hero for the Bruins with the double overtime goal, redirecting a pass from LW Brad Marchand on a two-on-two counter-attack. Boston's first goal was tallied by C David Krejci, the playoff leader with nine goals and 21 points.
Bergeron and Krejci had to handle a heavy workload as Boston's fourth-line C Gregory Campbell, suffered a broken leg and ended up playing only 6:51. With Campbell out, and the game going to double overtime, Krejci played 35:46 and Bergeron logged 31:59 to lead Bruins forwards. D Zdeno Chara led all skaters with 42:05 of ice time. Enforcer Shawn Thornton skated just 3:56 for Boston, unable to find the right fit with his centre, Campbell, injured.
Among the faceoff leaders, Bergeron had a tough night on the draws, winning 13 of 35 (37.1%). Sidney Crosby (21 of 36, 55.3%) and Brandon Sutter (15 of 25, 60.0%) were best on the dot for Pittsburgh.
Marchand was dangerous for the Bruins, tying D Johnny Boychuk with a team-high six shots on goal, while LW Milan Lucic registered a game-high eight hits.
Even though he was stripped of the puck by Bruins RW Jaromir Jagr before the winning goal, and finished the game minus-2, Penguins C Evgeni Malkin was the most dangerous player on the ice, registering a game-high 10 shots on goal. D Kris Letang played more than 40 minutes and had eight shots on goal, while Penguins RW James Neal had seven shots on goal.
Neal and Letang had the best puck possession numbers of the game for Pittsburgh, while D Torey Krug was tops for Boston.
As great as Malkin was, he didn't manage a point and has been held off the scoresheet in five of the last six games. Sidney Crosby was also held scoreless and has been held without a points in four of the last six games. Coming into the series, Boston needed their one-two punch at centre -- Bergeron and Krejci -- to fare well in their matchup against Pittsburgh's elite tandem and, so far, it's no contest.
If the Penguins are going to come back, they'll need their power play, which had scored 13 goals in 11 games through the first two series, to get on track. Through the first three games there has not been a power play goal scored in the series, with Pittsburgh 0-for-12 and Boston 0-for-10 with the man advantage.
Down three games to none, the Penguins have to see the writing on the wall. Boston was the last team to relinquish a 3-0 series lead, in 2010 against Philadelphia, but it's asking a lot for a team to win four straight against a Bruins team that is, right off the top, winning the matchup of goaltenders and centres. This is the fate that befalls a Penguins team that didn't play well in their first two games at home. Even though they played very welll in Game Three, certainly well enough to win, they didn't and they're left in a virtually impossible position.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.