The reigning NHL MVP is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. The league’s top-scoring defenseman is out, too, apparently because of a lower body issue.
Still, it hardly matters for the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sidney Crosby scored his 13th goal, Joe Vitale added his first in more than a year, and Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots as the Penguins beat the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Sunday for their ninth straight win.
“It seems like it’s always different guys, so that’s what you need in order to have success consistently. We’ve been getting that lately,” Crosby said. “Our depth is a big part of our success. We need to continue to show that.”
The Penguins moved into the top spot in the Eastern Conference even without star center Evgeni Malkin — who missed his fifth consecutive game — and played the final two periods without defenseman Kris Letang, who didn’t return after the first intermission following a seemingly innocuous collision with Boston’s Brad Marchand.
The Bruins took advantage of Letang’s absence by spending most of the game’s final 40 minutes working in Pittsburgh’s end of the ice. Still, they had nothing to show for it thanks to the Penguins’ suddenly responsible defense.
Taken to task by coach Dan Bylsma for sloppy play following a comeback win over Philadelphia on March 7, Pittsburgh has responded by allowing just five goals in five games.
Barely 24 hours after shutting out the New York Rangers 3-0 behind No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Vokoun showcased why the Penguins traded for him during the offseason to give Fleury an experienced backup.
Having guys in front of Vokoun who played smartly with the puck instead of trying to make the spectacular play certainly helped.
“They played pretty sound defensively, you’ve got to give them that even though their top guys [were out],” Marchand said. “That makes it a little bit tough to play against, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Tyler Seguin scored his 10th goal for Boston and Tuukka Rask made 16 saves.