PITTSBURGH – The Boston Bruins are heading home two wins away from their second trip to the Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading to Boston in an attempt to salvage their season.
Brad Marchand scored at 28 seconds of the first period and again with 8.1 seconds to play in the first to stake the Bruins to a 4-1 lead they would not relinquish Monday night, defeating the Penguins 6-1 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center.
The Bruins lead the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 slated for Wednesday at TD Garden in Boston (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Although the Bruins would have every right to be feeling very well about themselves, they respect the firepower of their opponents and are not willing to allow themselves to fall into a comfort zone.
"You can't be satisfied with what you've done," said Boston forward Milan Lucic. "It's a big two wins, but two wins is just two wins. There's still a long way to go and they have more than enough character in that room to fight their way back."
A Penguins team that had been so dominant offensively throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs has scored just once in 120 minutes and looked downright disorganized and at times disinterested in Game 2, allowing the Bruins to freely enter their zone and repeatedly committing turnovers in the neutral zone.
The Bruins were all too happy to take advantage of the situation, scoring on their final three shots of the first period when Nathan Horton scored at 14:37, David Krejci at 16:31 and Marchand capping the period at 19:51.
Marchand's second goal was scored on Marc-Andre Fleury on the first shot the Penguins' goalie had seen since he played in Game 4 of their first-round series against the New York Islanders on May 7. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma pulled Tomas Vokoun after Krejci's goal gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead, but it was more an indictment of how the Penguins' skaters were playing than Vokoun, who could only perhaps be faulted for failing to control a rebound on Horton's goal.
"We got down 3-0, I don't think there was a lot of fault in those three goals by the goaltender," Bylsma said. "So it's tough to evaluate given the breakdowns and the type of scoring chances that they scored on for both goalies."
At the other end, meanwhile, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask saw just 13 shots through two periods and finished his relatively easy night of work with 26 saves. A nasty Brandon Sutter snap shot with 33.2 seconds to play in the first is the only shot that's eluded Rask in the series thus far.
"We pretty much dominated that game," Rask said. "Our defense was really good not giving them too many scoring chances at all."
The Bruins top line of Krejci, Horton and Lucic had its second big game of the series, combining for two goals and two assists in the decisive first period alone and giving the Penguins fits with their strong cycle game in the offensive zone. The three players have combined for four goals and five assists in the first two games of the series.
"I think our line's success has come with just keeping things simple and playing straight line hockey," Lucic said. "That's what we need to continue doing to be successful."
The Bruins second line had a strong night as well, with Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and veteran right wing Jaromir Jagr combining for three goals and three assists. Jagr's two assists snapped a six-game pointless streak.
"I think that line, seeing them step up and play the way that they did was great to see," Lucic said. "They made some good plays, some big plays, and obviously scored some big goals. We're going to need them to continue playing like that."
While the Bruins' best players held to the cliché by being their team's best players, the Penguins' best players were among their worst Monday.
Hart trophy candidate Sidney Crosby had a turnover that gave Marchand a breakaway for the game's opening goal, one of several he would commit throughout the game. Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang's turnover in his own zone led directly to Horton's goal, and he was on the ice for four of Boston's five goals.
"Tonight we were just terrible," Crosby said. "There is no other way to describe it."
Crosby, Letang, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Jarome Iginla combined for 88 points in the first 11 games of the playoffs. They have combined for no points and a minus-25 rating in the past two games.
"As a group, we need to be a lot better," Bylsma said. "We need to get to our foundation of how we play and play as a group, and we didn't do that. That includes every one of them, all of us, not just 87 [Crosby], 71 [Malkin] and 58 [Letang]."
The Penguins first shot of the game came at the 13-second mark of the first period, but they didn't get another one for nine minutes as the Bruins did an effective job bottling them in their own zone and forcing a number of neutral zone turnovers to set up the counter attack.
The first of those counters came before the game was 30 seconds old, when a puck bounced to Crosby at the point and he was unable to control it as he attempted an ill-advised pass to Matt Niskanen at the opposite point. The puck hopped over his stick and Marchand was away on a breakaway, beating Vokoun high to the glove side to give the Bruins an early 1-0 lead.
Letang's turnover onto the stick of Torey Krug allowed the Bruins' rookie defenseman to attempt a shot on goal that Horton got a stick on, making the puck bounce and creating a rebound that he managed to slice into the net at 14:37 for his second goal in as many games to make the score 2-0.
Krejci's goal on Boston's next shot was a thing of beauty, with Lucic entering the Penguins' zone and leaving a drop pass through his legs for Horton, who immediately fed Krejci for a one-timer that left Vokoun with no chance, but which nonetheless ended his evening of work at 16:31 of the first after allowing three goals on 12 shots.
Sutter's second goal of the playoffs at 19:26 of the first brought some life back into Consol Energy Center, but it was sucked right back out 15 seconds later when Marchand scored his second of the game at 19:51 of the first.
"They were getting some momentum off that goal," Marchand said. "We did a good job of kind of crushing that."
Despite trailing 4-1, the Penguins have enough offensive star power to believe they could come back with 40 minutes remaining in the game. But, they came out for the second period looking lifeless and defeated, failing to apply consistent pressure on the Bruins and making their job of protecting a three-goal lead relatively easy.
"We've gotten away from our game," Bylsma said. "We've gotten off our game plan. We've deviated. We get down early today again and not too far after the second goal we get off kilter and deviate again from how we can play and what we need to do."
Just 27 seconds into the third period, Jagr set Bergeron up for a back door one-timer that Fleury had no chance on for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
That led a large number of Penguins fans heading for the exits and by the time Johnny Boychuk scored at 18:36 of the third, only a sparse crowd remained, left to wonder if this would be the last time they would see their Penguins on home ice this season.