PITTSBURGH — The Boston Bruins have fallen off their perch atop the Eastern Conference, scuffling so badly during the first half of the season new CEO Charlie Jacobs called their current state "unacceptable."
Patrice Bergeron did his best to kick start the long climb back. Bergeron scored twice, including a deflection past Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury 2:43 into overtime to lift the Bruins to a 3-2 victory over the Penguins on Wednesday night.
Bergeron got just enough of Milan Lucic's blast from the point to put it past Fleury as the Bruins ended a three-game losing streak. Officials spent several minutes reviewing the play to make sure Bergeron's stick was below the crossbar when it made contact with the puck.
"At some point, it's going to have to go our way," Bergeron said. "It wasn't perfect by all means, but it was a good effort and we found a way to get a big win."
Zdeno Chara scored his third goal of the season for Boston. Tuukka Rask stopped 37 shots. The last eight meetings between these teams have been decided by one goal.
"I think the win was really important for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You know, you say 'Where is the confidence?' Well you need to win some games to get some confidence."
Beau Bennett and Evgeni Malkin scored for Pittsburgh. Fleury made 21 saves but had no chance on Bergeron's winner.
"I think we deserved the two points, but we missed a couple of chances," said Malkin, who assisted on Bennett's goal and has seven points in eight games. "We had a little bit of bad luck, but we played hard. We shot the puck. We controlled. Just not enough to win."
The Bruins came in stumbling through the last six weeks, hardly looking like the team that has spent most of this decade as one of the NHL's elite. They went just 5-6-3 in December, their first losing month in nearly two years, and limped into Pittsburgh coming off three straight overtime losses.
Jacobs put the club on notice when he took over for his father on Tuesday. For most of three periods, it didn't look like the message resonated much.
The Penguins have managed to avoid Boston's mini-swoon despite a rash of injuries — including a handful of players coming down with the mumps — and began Wednesday tied atop the Metropolitan Division. They controlled play for long stretches, holding onto the puck and keeping Rask plenty busy.
Bennett scored for the first time since Nov. 18 thanks to a dazzling feed from Malkin, who chased down Simon Despres' errant shot and flicked a no-look backhand to Bennett on the doorstep. Rask was well out of position, and Bennett's wrist shot split Rask's pads to make it 1-0 just 3:37 into the game.
Boston tied it late in the first when Chara leaned into a drive from the top of the left circle. Fleury had little chance, and the puck made a distinct "plink" as it smacked off the far post and carried into the net.
The Penguins appeared to reclaim the lead 3:28 into the second when Craig Adams sent a backhand by a sprawled Rask, but the goal was waved off when officials ruled Pittsburgh's Zach Sill bowled over Rask. Replays showed Sill tried to hold up before colliding with the goalie, only to be pushed into Rask by Boston's Adam McQuaid.
Pittsburgh dominated the period — ripping off the first eight shots not including a handful that slipped just wide of the net — but Boston counterpunched effectively. The Bruins jumped ahead when Fleury's poke check to thwart a Boston rush landed on Bergeron's stick, and he buried a wrister over Fleury's glove 15:37 into the second.
Malkin tied it 14 seconds into the third, blasting a shot past Rask during a rush for his team-high 18th goal. It helped Pittsburgh earn a point, but the Bruins escaped with a needed boost.
"By no means do we feel or think that we're out of the woods here," Julien said. "But it's a good start."
NOTES: Boston scratched forwards Jordan Caron and David Pastrnak and defenseman Matt Bartkowski. Penguins scratched forwards Bobby Farnham and Marcel Goc and defenseman Derrick Pouliot. ... Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin played 20:17 in his return after missing eight games with an undisclosed injury. ... The Penguins went 0 for 5 on the power play. The Bruins were 0 for 2 with the man advantage.
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