The Penguins locked up the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference after securing a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at TD Garden Saturday afternoon.
"These races for the division and top of the conference usually come down to the last game or two," head coach Dan Bylsma. "To be able to clinch the division and conference this early says a lot for our team and how we played through the shortened season with different types of injuries and different people in our lineup."
Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Kris Letang scored for the Penguins, while goaltender Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin scored for Boston.
The Penguins still have an outside shot at winning the President’s Trophy as the team with the best record in the NHL. They trail the Chicago Blackhawks by four points – Chicago has played one less game than Pittsburgh and hosts the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at 8:30 p.m.
Jussi Jokinen continues to produce for the Penguins ever since being acquired at the NHL’s trade deadline. He was a major factor in Pittsburgh’s victory against Boston, scoring a goal and setting two others for a three-point game (factoring in on all three Penguins’ tallies).
"I've been playing a lot of minutes," Jokinen said. "The coaches have put me in situations that I can be successful. It feels good."
In six games with the Penguins, Jokinen has scored four goals and eight points – and also scored a game-deciding shootout goal. That’s amazing production, especially when you consider that he only played 10 minutes in Pittsburgh’s last game due to an illness.
Perhaps Jokinen’s best play (and smartest) came when he was grabbed from behind by Marchand. After Marchand dropped his gloves to fight, Jokinen kept his on and skated away from the altercation. That resulted in a roughing penalty on Marchand and a Penguins power play early in the third period.
On the ensuing power play, Jokinen set the table for Iginla to slap the puck past Tuukka Rask to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead they would never relinquish.
IGGY’S LAST LAUGH
A few weeks ago, the Bruins thought they had made a deal with the Calgary Flames to acquire Iginla. But instead, the Penguins swooped in and stole the future Hall of Famer and hockey icon.
The Bruins organization and fans felt snubbed by the Penguins’ steal. Every time Iginla touched the puck during Saturday’s game, the fans let their displeasure be known with boos.
"I wasn't surprised," Iginla said of the fans. "It's a great sports city. At the time I was very humbled and flattered to have an opportunity to go to both teams. I made the choice to come to Pitt. I have a lot of respect for the city and organization. I expected that. It's not too bad when it's on the road. When you're booed at home it's hard to take."
The Bruins also targeted Iginla, hitting him at every opportunity. Iginla had enough in the first period and dropped the gloves with Nate Horton. After that the Bruins weren’t as apt to mess with him.
Iginla would have the ultimate last laugh. With the game tied early in the third period and the Penguins on the power play, Iginla just ripped a slap shot through Rask for the go-ahead goal.
(A lot of credit on that goal goes to Letang for diving to keep the puck in the offensive zone, Chris Kunitz with a brilliant screen and Jokinen with nice hands in tight to make the pass to Iginla).
The Pens wore special patches on their jerseys during the game. The patches have the outline of Boston’s downtown with an American flag in the background and the numbers “617” – which is the Boston area code.
Following the game the jerseys will be auctioned off with the proceeds being donated to “The One Fund Boston” for the families most affected by this weeks events at the Boston Marathon.
Author: Sam Kasan