PITTSBURGH — You think Jarome Iginla wants a do-over? The early returns indicate he may have backed the wrong Stanley Cup candidate.
Iginla, who vetoed a March trade to the Bruins at the last minute to join Sidney Crosby and Co., in Pittsburgh, misjudged the Bruins, and so did the pucks pundits.
The school of thought was that the Penguins were the favorite in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins were the ice underdogs. Two games into the series, the Bruins have overrun the Penguins to the aggregate tune of 9-1 and have the clear upper hand in the series.
The Bruins went into the Consol Energy Center Monday night and planted their flag — as well as a seed of doubt in the Penguins’ minds — with a 6-1 shellacking of the hosts that has the Bruins shipping back to Boston with a resounding 2-0 series lead.
Game 2 was a game in name only. Mighty-mite Brad Marchand scored 28 seconds in and the Bruins never looked back. They’ve picked the perfect time to unwrap their best hockey of the season.
“Yeah, probably. We pretty much dominated that game,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. “Our defense was really good and not giving them too many scoring chances at all. It was just a really good effort.”
This series isn’t over by any means. The Penguins have too much high-end merchandise on their bench, led by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who puts a pit in your stomach every time he touches the puck.
But the idea that the Bruins were going to be overmatched and outclassed by the skill, skating, and scoring aptitude of the Penguins is finished. It has proven as faulty logic as the notion that the Celtics were a better team without Rajon Rondo.
The Bruins took Pittsburgh to school in their own rink in two games.
After his Game 1 shutout of the potent Penguins, Rask was asked if the team got a lift from being labeled underdogs in the series.
He sniffed at the idea the Bruins were underdogs.
“Yeah, we don’t read too much into that media stuff anyways,” Rask said after making 26 stops in Game 2. “We’ve always been pretty honest with ourselves as a team. We know where we stand and how good we can be. I don’t know if we’re underdogs in any series. As I’ve said many times, when we play like this we can beat anybody.”
Or make any team look like nobodies.
This series was like a batting-practice fastball for the psyche of the Bruins. They’re a team that is at its best when its doubted, dismissed, and underestimated. Add in the extra motivation from being spurned by Iginla and it’s even better.
The first period was a Bruins’ blitz that would have made Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau proud.
After being shut out for the first time in 96 games in Game 1, the Penguins were so concerned about rekindling their offense that they committed gross defensive negligence.
The Bruins stunned a raucous Pittsburgh crowd with the quickest goal in the NHL this postseason. The Marchand lightning strike was set up by carelessness from Crosby, who committed one of his game-high four giveaways when he tried to chip a bouncing puck to Matt Niskanen.
Marchand intercepted the weak wobbler and skated in alone, beating goalie Tomas Vokoun top-shelf for a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins expanded their lead to 2-0 thanks to another mental misfire by the Penguins. Seconds after a Boston power play had expired, Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang blindly sent a clearing attempt down the middle of the ice.
It was intercepted by Torey Krug, who put the puck on net. Nathan Horton outmaneuvered defenseman Paul Martin and potted the rebound at 14:37 of the first.
The Bruins were making the boys from the Keystone State looked like the Keystone Cops on skates.
Boston made it 3-0 just 1:54 later with a David Krejci goal that was such a work of art it could be hanging in the halls of the Museum of Fine Arts today.
Milan Lucic rushed up ice and executed a give-and-go with Nathan Horton. Lucic put the return pass through his legs back for Horton, who deftly dished it to Krejci in the left faceoff circle. Mr. Playoffs then snapped it past Vokoun for his eighth goal of the postseason.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma pushed the panic button, switching netminders. He ditched Vokoun, who could have sued his mates for lack of support, and dusted off Marc-Andre Fleury, who had not played since Game 4 of Pittsburgh’s first-round series.
The Penguins finally got on the board in the series with 33.2 left in the period, when Brandon Sutter scored. The celebration was short-lived.
Marchand restored Boston’s three-goal lead with 8.2 seconds left in the period, beating Fleury on the first shot he faced.
“It’s tough when you score a big goal when you’re down a few and then the team scores right after,” said Marchand. “We were happy to get that one back and go into the second period with a three-goal lead.”
Pittsburgh never recovered. The Bruins added third-period goals from Patrice Bergeron and a salt-in-the-eye strike from Johnny Boychuk.
Iginla, who has landed three shots in the series and is a minus-3, said his would-be team “outcompeted and outplayed” his hand-picked one.
This is why sports is the greatest unscripted drama going. Who would have predicted that through two games Crosby and Malkin would be pointless and the trio of Horton (5 points), Krejci (3), and Lucic (2) would have combined for 10 points? Or that Crosby would be a minus-3?
Iginla chose a loaded Cup contender in Black and Gold. He just might have chose the wrong one.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.