Casey DeSmith’s saves, Jake Guentzel’s goal fuels Penguins win over Bruins
A strong performance by goalie Casey DeSmith and a late goal by Jake Guentzel saved the Pittsburgh Penguins from staring down a second straight bad loss.
Guentzel’s goal broke a third-period tie with about nine minutes left as the Penguins blew a two-goal lead but rallied past the Boston Bruins, 5-3, on Friday night.
Off an offensive-zone faceoff win by Sidney Crosby midway through the third period, Kris Letang unleashed a shot from the blue line that took a deflection off Guentzel and eluded goalie Jaroslav Halak.
The Penguins might have suffered a significant loss in the win, as Letang went to the locker room shortly after assisting on the goal with an apparent injury to his left leg.
The Penguins held a two-goal lead entering the third, but they owed much of their success to the play of DeSmith, who was brilliant through two periods.
It only took the Bruins 54 seconds to deliver a ruthless one-two punch of counter-attack goals that left the Penguins reeling.
About seven minutes into the period, Chris Wagner got open in the high slot and wired a shot to the top corner to make it 3-2. About eight minutes in, after Olli Maatta wiped out in a mad scramble in the neutral zone, David Pastrnak hit the crossbar on a breakaway, and David Krejci cleaned up the rebound to make it 3-3.
Zach Aston-Reese scored a short-handed goal to give the Penguins a two-goal lead heading into the third.
Riley Sheahan pressured Boston’s point man and Brian Dumoulin stepped up for a clear, sending Sheahan and Aston-Reese off on a two-on-one. Aston-Reese scored blocker side for the Penguins, who have allowed a league-high eight short-handed goals this season.
Aston-Reese added an empty netter in the final seconds.
The Penguins spent much of the first half of the game proving they had a pulse after a dreadful 6-3 loss to the last-place Chicago Blackhawks two days earlier.
DeSmith made a highlight-reel save with about four minutes left in the first period. DeSmith, sliding to his right, reached back and gloved down a Marchand backhand shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. Marchand leads all NHL players in backhand goals since 2009, and that includes Sidney Crosby.
Less than two minutes after the save, the Penguins took a 1-0 lead on a goal from the fourth line.
Matt Cullen spun away from two defenders in the right-wing corner to make a short pass to Derek Grant, who skated to the net and slipped a shot inside the far post.
Evgeni Malkin, who came into Friday with one goal in his last nine games, showed signs of life when he made a nice pass to set up the goal that gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Malkin took a pass just inside the blue line, faked a slap shot and sent a pass through to Phil Kessel at the left faceoff dot for a quick shot between Halak’s pads.
The fact the Penguins showed improvement from the Chicago debacle didn’t impress the Bruins, of course, and they scratched their way back into the game.
Chris Wagner could have had a goal when he bulldozed a puck under DeSmith about eight minutes into the second period, but a referee’s whistle foiled Boston’s plans.
The Bruins scored one that counted less than four minutes later when David Backes tried a wraparound during a net-front scramble, and the puck popped out to Chris Carlo for a slap shot into an open corner to make it 2-1.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.