Penguins-Bruins Preview

The Boston Bruins spent much of the season’s first three months
with a middling offense in front of the outstanding Tim Thomas, but
lately scoring hasn’t been an issue.

The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t need to be reminded.

Four goals in the final four minutes earlier this week lifted
Boston to its second stunning third-period comeback in Pittsburgh,
a pattern the Penguins hope doesn’t follow them to TD Garden on
Saturday afternoon when the surging Bruins seek a fourth straight
win.

Boston (24-12-7) averaged 2.78 goals in its first 32 games –
14th in the NHL – but scored one or no goals in eight of those
games. That led to a 17-11-4 record despite allowing the fewest
goals in the league, led by Thomas’ 1.70 goals-against average.

Lately, the Bruins have turned their mediocre offense into a
rather potent one. They’ve averaged 3.55 goals while going 7-1-3 in
their last 11 games despite Thomas’ 2.38 GAA in seven starts during
that stretch.

Boston’s offense has totaled two goals on 39 shots in the first
and second periods in two games against Pittsburgh (27-14-4) this
season, but it’s more than made up for it in the third. The Bruins
scored four times in the final 3:23 Monday at Consol Energy Center,
turning a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 win two months to the day after
scoring five times in the third of a 7-4 victory there.

“I’d like them to remember it,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said
after his team fell to 19-3-0 when leading after 40 minutes.

Boston routed Ottawa 6-0 a night later back home, then was faced
with another deficit after two periods Thursday against
Philadelphia, trailing 3-2.

The Bruins continued their penchant for comebacks against
Pennsylvania clubs. Mark Recchi started the third-period scoring 38
seconds in, and Boston got four more goals in a wild 7-5
victory.

Coach Claude Julien’s club is 5-9-4 when trailing after two.
Four clubs – including the Penguins – haven’t won in that
situation.

“That was a roller coaster,” Thomas said after improving to
20-4-6 despite allowing five goals for the first time since Dec. 4,
2009. “Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out that way and
you have to roll with the punches.”

That’s what Pittsburgh’s been trying to do while Sidney Crosby’s
been sidelined with a concussion, but it couldn’t find any
offensive consistency as it totaled three goals in dropping the
first three games without its captain.

The Penguins got a major boost from their power play Wednesday
at Montreal. Trailing 2-1 early in the second period, Pittsburgh
struck four times with the man advantage in a 5-2 victory.

“It was big,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We lost a
tough one against Boston. Just to get that many goals, and the
power play doing so well, that was good for us.”

Crosby’s return date is still unclear, and Bylsma said Thursday
he won’t be giving updates until the NHL’s leading scorer
progresses.

Tuukka Rask started Monday’s win over the Penguins while Thomas
has been in net for the last two games, and it’s uncertain who
Julien plans to go with Saturday. Thomas, however, has a 3.42 GAA
in his last five starts versus Pittsburgh.

Fleury isn’t concerned with who’s starting – he’s just glad the
Penguins get another shot at the Bruins.

“I think everybody’s looking forward to having a chance to play
them so quickly after the other night,” said Fleury, who’s 2-1-1
with a 1.97 GAA in four starts at Boston. “… Hopefully we get two
points there.”