Pastrnak’s tally sends Bruins past Penguins
BOSTON — Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has a decision to make prior to Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
Who starts in goal?
Backup Anton Khudobin won his — and the team’s — fourth straight game, a 4-3 decision over the slumping Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
Khudobin wasn’t great, making just 17 saves and looking a bit shaky, but he won — and he has gone 12-0-2 in 14 starts (since Cassidy took over behind the bench) dating back to last season.
Where does that leave starter Tuukka Rask, who has struggled through a 3-7-2 start and hasn’t played since Nov. 15?
Cassidy says he’s taking the goaltending situation “game-to-game” and added the winning streak is not the final determining factor. He said he didn’t want to use Rask Friday because it was a day game and Rask wouldn’t have had the morning skate practice to build on.
It is complicated.
As far as Khudobin Friday, the coach said, “He didn’t have as much work as he’s had. He’s battled from start to finish every game he’s been in. He wants to win. That’s his makeup.
“I was happy for him. Tonight we scored a little more than we normally have for him and that’s what we needed to win.”
Khudobin has stopped 129 of 136 shots during his four-game run, and that doesn’t count the 10 he handled in an 11-round shootout win at New Jersey. He is 7-0-2 on the season and has already matched his wins total from last season.
“I’ll take that as best in my career,” Khudobin said of this stretch, which he says tops one he had with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014. “I think for every goalie, when you’re playing more and more and more, you’re in a rhythm. You feel a lot better. You see the puck better.
“For me, wins are always more important than my stats.”
Khudobin, who makes $1.2 million, is hot. Rask, making $7 million, is not. And the sizzling Tampa Bay Lightning are coming to town on Wednesday night.
David Pastrnak scored the game-winner on a breakaway 5:06 into the third period Friday, taking a long pass from Riley Nash between two defenders before going in and beating Matt Murray for his 11th goal of the season.
The goal allowed the Bruins (10-7-4) to escape despite failing to hold leads of 2-0 and 3-1.
“In the second they kind of took the game away from us,” Pastrnak said. “We said we took their game at the beginning, so we said let’s do it again.”
The Penguins (11-10-3) have lost three straight and are just 4-7-2 after a 7-3-1 start.
“I think our whole team, we need to be better if we’re going to get the results,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We need to be more consistent. We can’t show up after the first 20 minutes of the game and expect to win games consistently. “
Boston improved to 9-1-2 in its last 12 games against Pittsburgh, 6-0-1 in its last seven at home.
Down 2-0 after one period, the Penguins got a goal and an assist from a dominating Sidney Crosby in a three-goal second period that tied the game before Pastranak delivered in the third.
“I felt we controlled a lot of the third period and that’s what makes it so disheartening,” Sullivan said. “We did a lot of the things that we talked about, but we gave up a breakaway.
“I think everybody could be better, that’s what I think. Matt included.”
David Krejci (one assist), Sean Kuraly and rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk also scored for Boston, with rookie Jacob DeBrusk picking up two assists.
Jake Guentzel and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins, who got 29 saves from Murray (11-7-1).
The two points gave Crosby, whose goal was originally waved off before a lengthy review overturned the call, 47 in 34 career games against the Bruins.
“We did some good things, but our start hurt us tonight,” Crosby said. “It was great we were able to battle back, but we can’t put ourselves in that spot.”
Grzelcyk, whose father works on the bull crew that converted TD Garden from hockey to basketball for Friday night’s Celtics game, became the seventh Bruin to score his first NHL goal this season. He said he would be giving the goal puck to his dad.
NOTES: C Sidney Crosby played in his 806th game with the Penguins, tying Jaromir Jagr for second place on the team’s all-time list, while RW Patric Hornqvist played in his 600th NHL game. ... Boston D Torey Krug, who missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, returned after passing a test in warmups, but LW Brad Marchand (undisclosed but a “suspected concussion” according to the Boston Herald) and RW Anders Bjork (undisclosed) both missed their fifth straight. ... The Penguins were without C Evgeni Malkin (upper body) after he was injured Wednesday, while RW Carter Rowney, who missed 14 games with an upper body injury, returned and was a minus-2 ... The Pens host the Lightning on Saturday.