Brandon Sutter scored twice in the final seven minutes to cap a furious rally and the Pittsburgh Penguins slipped past the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Chris Kunitz started Pittsburgh’s third-period surge with his 18th goal of the season and Sutter beat Boston’s Anton Khudobin twice in less than four minutes, including the game-winner with 2:03 remaining.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 14 shots for the Penguins, who broke loose late against the NHL’s best defensive team in winning their sixth straight.
Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin scored first-period goals for the Bruins. Khudobin made 31 saves and the Bruins kept Pittsburgh’s high-powered offense in check until the final minutes of a matchup between two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams.
The Penguins played their second straight game without reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin, out for at least a week with an undisclosed upper body injury. Pittsburgh hardly missed him in a 6-1 romp over the New York Islanders on Sunday, but Boston presented a significantly tougher test.
Still, the Penguins continued to show a flair for the dramatic. Though NHL leading scorer Sidney Crosby saw his eight-game point streak snapped, Pittsburgh continued to find a way to win close games.
Five of the Penguins’ six victories during their current run have come by one goal, though this one proved by far the most surprising of them all.
Boston controlled the first 50-plus minutes of the game and appeared poised to send the Penguins to their first home shutout in two years.
It all changed quickly. Kunitz revived Pittsburgh’s hopes with a wrist shot from the right circle to pull the Penguins within one with 6:18 left in regulation. Sutter, who has been solid if not spectacular in his first season with Pittsburgh after being acquired in a trade for Jordan Staal last summer, then drew the Penguins even 51 seconds later with a wrist shot from the left side.
The Bruins, content to pack it in defensively after taking an early lead, couldn’t regain their footing. Sutter capped the comeback with another wrist shot for his second goal of the night and eighth of the season to give Pittsburgh perhaps its biggest victory of the year.
It was a stunning collapse for Boston, which ran out of gas while playing its third game in four nights.
The Penguins have been the best first-period team in the NHL, pouring in a league-leading 33 goals in the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins and their suffocating forecheck put an end to all that.
Pittsburgh found little room to maneuver against the league’s stingiest defense, while Boston took advantage of the few opportunities it created.
Chara put the Bruins up 1-0 less than 5 minutes in when his one-timer from the point found its way under Fleury’s right arm. Seguin made it 2-0 later in the period with a pinpoint wrist shot from right in front of the crease, a shot Seguin managed to get off despite having his legs taken out from under him as he let it go.
The score seemed to wake up the Penguins, who managed to flip the ice, but couldn’t find a way to slip anything past Khudobin.
That included the NHL’s most explosive line. Crosby, Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis had combined for 31 points – 15 goals, 16 assists – during Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak but were shut down by Boston’s disciplined system.
Wherever the Penguins went, a Bruin seemed to follow. Though Khudobin was impressive, the guys playing in front of him may have been ever better. Boston blocked 26 shots before they even made it to the goaltender.
It still wasn’t enough to cool the NHL’s hottest team.
NOTES: In addition to Malkin, the Penguins also scratched defensemen Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres. ... Boston scratched center Chris Kelly, who sustained a lower body injury in a win over Ottawa on Monday night. The Bruins also sat winger Lane MacDermid and defenseman Aaron Johnson. ... Boston hosts Florida on Thursday while the Penguins travel to Toronto.