PITTSBURGH — The Bruins were less than seven minutes away from a no-point result. Because of an upper-body injury to Kevan Miller late in the second period, they finished the game with five defensemen, including rookie Matt Grzelcyk. A flickering third line forced coach Claude Julien to roll mostly three units in the third period, even with a game looming Thursday against Anaheim.
So considering all that, the Bruins were content, although not pleased, with a 1-point decision in Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena.
“This was a hard-fought game, so no complaint,” said Julien. “We did a good job of staying in there. Even when we fell behind, 3-2, we clawed back in and found a way to get ourselves a really valuable point.”
Bryan Rust scored the winning goal at 1:24 of overtime. Justin Schultz flung a long-distance bank pass to Evgeni Malkin. Before Grzelcyk could close on Malkin, the center chipped the puck ahead to Rust, who had slipped behind Ryan Spooner. Rust swept a backhander over Tuukka Rask to leave the Bruins with 1 point.
It was a difficult way to lose a game in which the Bruins were satisfied with some of their accomplishments. Brad Marchand led the charge with a game-high 10 shots on net, including one that slipped through Matt Murray’s pads. The peaks-and-valleys second line punched in two goals. With Zdeno Chara logging a game-high 27:07 of ice time, the Bruins kept Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Phil Kessel from finding the back of the net. Crosby, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, didn’t land a single puck on net.
“When you look at the two teams we played, first place in both divisions, it’s definitely a good road trip,” Julien said of the 3 points against Pittsburgh and Montreal. “You’ve got to be happy with it. There’s no doubt we would have loved to have that second point tonight. But sometimes it’s just the way it goes.”
The Penguins grabbed their first lead at 9:02 of the third period. With Marchand in the box for cross-checking Trevor Daley, Pittsburgh broke a 2-2 tie when Conor Sheary gained net-front position on Torey Krug and redirected a Brian Dumoulin point shot past Rask.
But the Bruins punched back at 13:20 when they capitalized on a flubbed exchange behind the Pittsburgh net. When a rolling puck skittered past the goal line, Murray left the crease in hopes of settling it down. But when Murray ventured out of his net, he bumped into Dumoulin, who was racing back to retrieve the puck.
Because of the misplay, David Pastrnak swooped in, settled the puck, and whipped a backhander on goal. A backchecking Nick Bonino tried to get back, but Pastrnak’s shot crossed the line, tying the game at 3-3. It was Pastrnak’s 19th goal, keeping him second in the league behind Crosby (21).
This is why we have extra hockey. pic.twitter.com/mYOW7mzhWJ— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 15, 2016
Pastrnak’s goal, however, could have been for nothing. In the final minute of regulation, Sheary roared past Adam McQuaid for a breakaway attempt. Rask left his crease to gap up on Sheary, waited for the forward to make the first move, and laid out when the Melrose native let the puck fly. Sheary’s shot glanced off Rask, hit the left post, and tumbled back between the goalie’s pads with 54.3 seconds remaining. A horde of teammates descended on Rask to make sure the puck stayed safely inside his gear.
“Extended my whole frame there,” said Rask (33 saves on 37 shots). “I think it hit my pad or something, then I just laid there. One of those plays that happened very quickly. Their guy had a step on Adam there a little bit. He’s a very, very quick skater. So I tried to get my gap back and stay with it. I happened to make a save.”
While Rask was able to keep Sheary’s goal off the scoreboard, the goalie thought he could have stopped one or both of Pittsburgh’s first two strikes. At 12:49, after Marchand gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead, Schultz tied the game at 1-1. After joining the rush and taking a cross-ice pass from Crosby, Schultz fired a heater over Rask’s right shoulder.
The Bruins pulled back ahead at 6:40 of the second on David Krejci’s close-range goal. But the Penguins tied the game again at 9:47 with a power-play goal, courtesy of a Marchand high-sticking penalty on Crosby. After taking a pass from Daley, Bonino whizzed through the neutral zone, forcing Miller to sag back into the defensive zone. Bonino used Miller as a screen and whistled a shot past Rask’s glove, making it a 2-2 game.
“First two goals, I probably should have had at least one of those,” Rask said. “When you give up one like that, it makes it tougher. But luckily we bounced back, scored three, and got the point.”
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.