PITTSBURGH — There’s a dry erase board in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room coach Dan Bylsma uses to remind his players about where they stand in their bid for a Stanley Cup.
For the first time this postseason, the Penguins find themselves with a bagel next to their name after the Boston Bruins pulled away for a 3-0 victory in Game 1 on Saturday night.
“It’s a different look,” Bylsma said.
One that will only certainly get worse if Pittsburgh can’t collect itself in Game 2 tonight.
The Bruins rode David Krecji’s two goals, Tuukka Rask’s 29 saves and a hefty amount of antagonism to frustrate the Penguins into the kind of chippy play that does little favors to one of the NHL’s most talented teams.
For a spell in the second period, the Penguins seemed more intent in sending a message than evening the score.
Forward Matt Cooke earned a major boarding penalty and a game misconduct for blasting Boston’s Adam McQuaid behind the Bruins net. Forward Chris Kunitz was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after mixing it up with Boston’s Rich Peverley and reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin traded punches with Patrice Bergeron at the end of the period. The fight was the fourth of Malkin’s seven-year career and a symbol of just how frayed the top-seeded Penguins appeared.
“I think anytime you see Evgeni Malkin fighting he’s away from his game,” Cooke said. “Emotions are high.”
Cooke understands he and the rest of his teammates will have to keep them in check. The NHL declined to further penalize Cooke for his hit on McQuaid, meaning he’ll be back on the ice today, offering Cooke a sense of relief. Once one of the league’s most notorious hitters, Cooke missed Pittsburgh’s opening round loss to Tampa Bay two years ago while serving a suspension. He has since cleaned up his act, though watching the second half of the game from the dressing room gave him unwelcome flashbacks.