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Bruins Take Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals

 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Round 1, make that Game 1, to the Boston Bruins.

David Krejci scored two more goals during his torrid postseason and the Bruins shut down the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

Nathan Horton added an insurance goal in the third period and Tuukka Rask stopped 29 shots for the Bruins, who silenced Sidney Crosby and the rest of the NHL’s top-scoring team.

Pittsburgh came in averaging a league-high 4.27 goals in the playoffs but couldn’t solve Rask. The Penguins hit the post six times and seemed a little bit off following an eight-day break between rounds.

The Bruins were coming off a similar layoff but had no such issues. Krejci scored early, and the Bruins handed Pittsburgh its worst loss of the playoffs.

Game 2 is Monday night.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 27 shots but surrendered a soft goal to Krejci, and Pittsburgh’s sizzling power play cooled off. The Penguins came in leading all playoff teams with the man advantage, scoring on 28 percent of their chances, but they went 0 for 4 in the opener.

The lengthy buildup to the matchup of two of hockey’s premier franchises certainly gave both teams fresh legs, and the Penguins came out flying.

Crosby hit the post in the opening minutes, and Pittsburgh put the kind of pressure on Rask that Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said would be necessary if they wanted to advance.

Rask, playing this deep in the postseason for the first time, proved equal to the challenge. He stuffed Crosby from point-blank range on the power play, then added an acrobatic save on Evgeni Malkin in the final moments of the period when Malkin attempted to bang home a pass off the end boards.

The stop preserved a 1-0 Boston lead after Krejci beat Vokoun 8:23 into the game. Krejci’s sixth goal of the postseason was also the first sloppy mistake by Vokoun during his excellent playoff run.

The Bruins raced in on a 3-on-2 break, and the NHL’s leading postseason scorer found himself alone 30 feet in front of the net. The shot slid by defenseman Paul Martin and rolled slowly through Vokoun’s legs and into the net.

The game’s free-flowing tenor, however, changed abruptly in the second period when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke slammed Boston’s Adam McQuaid from behind into the end boards behind the Bruins net.

McQuaid had his back turned when Cooke came in at full speed and raised his left arm just before impact. The collision sent McQuaid crumpling to the ice. Cooke – whose career was pockmarked with suspensions and fines for hits before he made it a point to clean up his play two years ago – was given a major penalty for boarding and was ejected.

The sequence escalated things from contentious to chippy, and it accelerated from there.

By the end of the second period – after Brad Marchand thumped James Neal into the boards in front of the Pittsburgh bench – the Penguins turned their frustration on the Bruins.

Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz and Boston’s Rich Peverley were called for unsportsmanlike conduct 5 seconds before intermission, a preview to the main event moments later.

Just as the horn sounded, Malkin and Bergeron – not exactly brawlers – started up, with Malkin dropping Bergeron to the ice with a couple shots to the face. It ended with both assistant captains given fighting majors, and a jolt sent to both dressing rooms.

It did little to help the Penguins.

Malkin was still in the penalty box when Krejci punched in a rebound for his 19th point of the playoffs 4:04 into the period to give Boston a two-goal lead.

Horton put it away less than 4 minutes later with a blast from the left circle. The puck darted over Vokoun’s glove and seemed to deflate the Penguins. Pittsburgh trailed longer in Game 1 – 52 minutes – than it did during its entire five-game series win over Ottawa in the second round.

 


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