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Zdeno Chara press conference, 3/18 03.18.10 at 9:44 pm ET
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Bruins captain Zdeno Chara addressed the media following the Bruins’ disappointing 3-0 loss to the Penguins at home.

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Matt Cooke press conference, 3/18 03.18.10 at 9:36 pm ET
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Matt Cooke spoke to a crowd of media following the Penguins’ 3-0 win over the Bruins on Thursday night.

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Bruins blanked by Penguins 03.18.10 at 8:33 pm ET
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Summary – In one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Bruins got their revenge but ended up losing the contest as the Penguins beat Boston 3-0 at TD Garden on Thursday. Tuukka Rask started and took the loss for the Bruins with 28 saves while Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 33rd win of the year by stopping 17 pucks.

Boston got the dramatic bits out of the way early when Shawn Thornton threw down the gloves against Matt Cooke on Cooke’s first shift of the game at 1:58 in the first period. The retribution by Thornton was the Bruins initial response for Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard on March 7 that left the center with a Grade 2 concussion. Savard will miss the rest of the year.

After that, it was time to play hockey.

Tyler Kennedy got the Penguins on the board first when he took the puck on the rush down the right wing and beat Rask high for the early goal advantage. It was Kennedy’s 10th goal of the year with the helpers coming from Ruslan Fedotenko and Brooks Orpik at 8:34.

Boston took three penalties in the second period and were able to kill them all but the momentum shifted in the direction of the Penguins who outshot the Bruins 15-5 in the frame. Pittsburgh broke through with an even-strength goal by Alexei Ponikarovsky with 14.1 seconds left to take a two-goal advantage into the third period.

Pittsburgh made it 3-0 when Michael Rupp beat Rask far side at 5:14 in the third to put the Bruins away for good.

Three Stars

Marc-Andre Fleury — The Penguins goaltender did not need to stop many pucks against the Bruins, but he ended up stopping enough to his his 33rd victory of the year.

Alexei Ponikarovsky — Pittsburgh acquired the scoring forward at the trade deadline and he scored the separation goal for the Penguins with his 21st in the second period.

Michael Rupp — The center got in a fight with Zdeno Chara and scored the Penguins third goal of the game in the third period to seal the Bruins fate.

Turning Point — The ways things go for the Bruins offense, the first goal that Rask allowed was the one that broke their back. The emotion of Thornton’s fight against Cooke had worn off and when regular hockey activities commenced Boston found itself outmatched. Kennedy got the strike with a rush down the right wing that was fed by Fedotenko. Rask could not follow the quick shot that Kennedy let go and the Penguins had the lead and never looked back.

Key Play — It may not have been the key play to the game, but Thornton tracking down Cooke for the retribution fight on Cooke’s first shift of the game was essential for Boston’s reputation with its fans and within the NHL. Cooke jumped the boards for his shift at 1:56 in the first period and Thornton had his glove off and ready for the fisticuffs by 1:58, showing that he was going to waste no time in getting the matter over with. Cooke got the first few punches in on Thornton but the Bruins enforcer scored the next couple of hits and pulled Cooke’s sweater over his head that brought the forward to his knees. Thornton took the fighting major as well as a 10-minute misconduct.

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Second period summary: Bruins-Penguins 03.18.10 at 7:47 pm ET
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The second period started with the Bruins holding on by a thread.

Vladimir Sobotka went to the penalty box at 2:22 for a hooking penalty. Out came one of the best penalty killing tandems in the league in the form of Daniel Paille and Steve Begin along with defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Normally a team will role out two penalty killing units on a power play with the first unit the best killers and the second unit efficient killers who can create an odd-man break when given the opportunity.

Boston never got the second unit on the ice.

It was more like Pittsburgh never let them off the ice. The full two minutes was spent in Boston’s defensive zone as the Penguins rained shots on Tuukka Rask. The young goaltender was up to it and proved to be the best penalty killer the Bruins had on the shift even as Pittsburgh dumped 10 shots on net (to the Bruins zero) in the first five minutes of the period.

Boston got its third chance on the power play at 7:37 when Sergei Gonchar took at tripping call. Once again the Bruins mustered next to nothing.

The second fight of the night broke out at 11:53 when captain Zdeno Chara went toe-to-toe with center Michael Rupp right after a face off. Chara got the best of Rupp in the captain’s first official fight of the season.

Seven-seconds after Chara went to the box, fellow defenseman Mark Stuart joined him with a hooking penalty at 12:00. That left the Bruins without two of their top three defensemen for an extended period of time. Once again, Rask stepped up and killed the penalty for the Boston.

The third time was the charm though. Pittsburgh got another shot on the power play at 17:44 when Steve Begin went for “kneeing” (a trip, more or less). Pittsburgh went through the normal routine — set up camp in the Boston zone, cycle, shoot, rebound, cycle, shoot. Right after the penalty ended the puck ended up on the stick of Kris Letang at the top of the left circle. He shot and it was deflected five-hole through Rask by Alexei Ponikarovsky for the two-goal lead.

Shots through second (total):

Bruins — 5 (10)

Penguins 15 (20)

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Thornton vs. Cooke photo gallery 03.18.10 at 7:41 pm ET
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Thornton and Cooke Square off

Shawn Thornton and Matt Cooke square off.

The much-anticipated Bruins-Penguins game has begun, and it didn’t take long for a fight to break out. Matt Cooke and Shawn Thornton squared off just 1:58 into the first period. Check out the photo gallery to see it all unfold.

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First period summary: Bruins-Penguins 03.18.10 at 6:54 pm ET
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It took all of two seconds.

That would be the amount of time that Matt Cooke was on the ice before Bruins forward Shawn Thornton tracked him down and signaled for a fight. Cooke jumped the boards for his first shift at 1:56 and skated to across the ice towards his defensive zone corner. Thorton came straight at him and let him know that he was on his way and they dropped gloves and circled each other. Cooke got the first couple of punches before Thornton went in with as much vigor as has been seen from him this year, registering a couple hits to the head and then pulling his sweater over his head. When the referees pulled the enforcer off of Cooke he was still visibly upset and was restrained as Cooke made his way to the box for the five-minute fighting major. Thornton received the five-minute fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct for instigating the fight.

Then there was hockey to be played and when it comes to that, the Penguins tend to fare better than the Bruins this season.

Pittsburgh scored the first goal of the game at 8:34 when Tyler Kennedy beat Tuukka Rask on a wrist shot on a rush down the right wing. It was Kennedy’s 10th of the year and the Penguins had the early lead.

Like the last time the teams played (March 7 in Pittsburgh), Boston had a couple of power play opportunities to get on the board in the first period. The first came at 5:36 when the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice, served by Kennedy. The second came, much to the delight of the TD Garden crowd, against Cooke at 12:52 when he side-swiped defenseman Dennis Seidenberg on the end boards behind Rask for a tripping penalty.

Just like March 7, Boston could do nothing with the man-advantage.

Outside of Thornton’s retribution and Kennedy’s goal, the play was even through much of the period but the Penguins will begin the second with a goal advantage.

Shots through first:

Boston – 5

Pittsburgh — 5

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Orr on focusing on Cooke: ‘That’s silly’ 03.18.10 at 5:04 pm ET
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Before and after Thursday’s game against the Penguins the Bruins will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Stanley Cup champions team. Many of the major alumni from the era are in attendance at TD Garden and were made available to the media in an afternoon session in the executive suite on the second level of the stadium. Bobby Orr, Johnny Bucyk, Dallas Smith and Fred Stanfield, among others were in attendance to rehash the memories of that great Bruins team.

Yet, the members of the last great Bruins dynasty could not completely escape the drama that the current incarnation in embroiled in. For the most part they were diplomatic and are trying not to stoke the fire and the media did its best to keep the topic on 1970 as opposed to 2010.

“Just getting together and seeing the guys again is really what it is all about,” Orr said. “I have to thank the Bruins for doing this. They have really been first class.”

Orr was bullish on the notion that the 1970 team would still be a great squad even in the current era of the NHL.

“We had a pretty good hockey team,” Orr said. “If you look at our lines they would be a pretty good team today too. We were pretty close. I don’t believe we had any ego problems or anything like that and we knew it was more fun to win than to lose and we loved to win hockey games … we didn’t need anyone else taking care of our problems, we could care of those ourselves.”

The group of reporters around Orr held out questions about Matt Cooke and the Penguins for about six minutes before finally succumbing to the temptation to ask one of the greatest hockey player of all time what he thinks about the situation. He reiterated what the current players said earlier Thursday — it is about the two points and to make it a point to go after Cooke would be “silly.”

“The Bruins have to go out tonight and play. It is two points, they are in a fight. And the Penguins are struggling a little bit. First of all I think that it is going to be a heck of a hockey game. It would be silly for the Bruins that their key thing to be to go after a player,” Orr said. “That’s silly. It would be a silly thing to do, it would be a silly thing for all of us. I was listening to a talk show coming in and the fan was ‘you got to do this, you got to do that, you got to take [Sidney] Crosby out.’ Come on. That is silly.”

Orr did express his opinion on the nature of the hit and what he thinks of Marc Savard.

“In my mind, it was an illegal hit. In my mind, a player like Marc Savard, who is a great hockey player, you bump him, you grind him, you get in his way. But, he is a player that you don’t run over like that. There were periods where that was understood that,” Orr said. “It would be like like me, during my time, running over Jean Beliveau from behind or blindsiding him. You just don’t do that. I was a pain in the you know what, so I was hit a lot. I would hit so I am going to get hit back but Marc, you just don’t do that to him.”

Orr was asked if the rules changes between his era and the current era has led to more hits like the Cooke’s on Savard but understands that the players cannot be given free reign over vigilante justice.

“The rules are pretty strict on things like that. I believe that if they let the players police it for a little while everyone will soon understand but I am not sure they will let them do that,” Orr said.

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