Savard's outstanding play drives Bruins' ninth straight win

PITTSBURGH -- Seven months ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins
looked as though they might be tough to beat in the Eastern
Conference for years. Instead, it's the Boston Bruins that are
playing like a team that's made for May and June.

Marc Savard scored a power-play goal, then set up Boston's next
two goals with excellent playmaking, and the streaking Bruins ran
their longest winning streak in nearly 26 years to nine games by
beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-2 Tuesday night.

Savard had his usual big game against Pittsburgh, and Dennis
Wideman had a goal and two assists, as the Eastern
Conference-leading Bruins improved to 23-2-1 in their last 26
games, outscoring opponents 106-51.

Boston, which barely made the playoffs last season, hasn't had a
run like this since the Barry Pederson- and Ray Bourque-led 1982-83
team won nine in a row in January, tied one, then won their next
five. These Bruins won five in a row, lost one, then have won their
last nine -- five on the road.

Tim Thomas stopped 32 shots for his seventh consecutive victory.

"We just want to win every game," said defenseman Zdeno Chara,
who scored Boston's first goal. "The stats and the history is one
thing, but playing every game the best we can is another thing.
After each game we want to look forward instead of back on whatever
the record is."

The Penguins dominated the conference playoffs last season,
losing only two games in three rounds, but are going in the
opposite direction of Boston by losing four in a row at home and
six of eight. The Penguins are 7-10-1 since beginning November by
going 7-0-1.

Still, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby isn't ready to concede
Boston is the team to beat, even if the Bruins seem to be beating
nearly every team they play.

"There's not much separating each team, they're disciplined in
the way they play and capitalized on the chances they got, and
that's what good teams do," Crosby said. "But it's not a matter
of them being way ahead of us."

Except in the conference. With the Penguins slipping further
down the standings, the players held a postgame meeting that none
would comment about. Their coach did.

"First of all, it's about time they had a meeting," Michel
Therrien said. "You have to show some leadership. If I were a
player, I would have called a meeting. I'm interested to see what
comes of this."

Even the Penguins' two biggest stars, Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,
aren't contributing like usual. Malkin, the NHL's leading scorer,
was held without a point, took a penalty that led to Savard's goal
and committed a giveaway that set up Phil Kessel's go-ahead goal
and made it 3-2 at 16:43 of the second period.

Crosby had an assist in his 250th NHL game, but gave away the
puck ahead of Martin St. Pierre's short-handed goal at 5:28 of the
third. That goal came with the Penguins pressing to tie it but
instead allowed the Bruins to take a 4-2 lead.

St. Pierre's goal was his first since Feb. 14, 2007, and the
second of his career, both against Pittsburgh.

Savard has 10 goals and 31 assists in 30 games against the
Penguins, whose 2-1 win at Boston on Oct. 20 is one of only two
Bruins home losses. The teams play there again Thursday night.

Kessel's 23rd goal came only 90 seconds after Pascal Dupuis tied
it at 2 for Pittsburgh. Malkin was attempting to make a short pass
to Crosby when Kessel grabbed it, turned and shot. Savard gathered
the rebound and made a cross-crease pass to Kessel, who beat goalie
Marc-Andre Fleury from in close. Fleury faced 40 shots.

"I thought we stuck with it. I didn't see that there were any
soft moments or soft shifts," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

Wideman set up Boston's first two goals, by Chara off P.J. Axelsson's cross-ice pass on a power play early in the second, and
Savard's 12th goal, which made it 2-1. Wideman scored midway
through the third, the Bruins' third goal in slightly less than 13

"I think, so far, we've been ready to play when we're playing
against really good teams. When we know we're up against a tough
task, we've responded real well," Wideman said.

Game notes

Boston was 2-for-8 on the power play. ... Penguins C Jordan
Staal (20 years, 111 days) became the youngest player to appear in
200 NHL games. ... Pittsburgh is 8-8-2 at home. ... Petr Sykora's
13th goal put Pittsburgh up 1-0 with three minutes left in the
first. ... Penguins D Hal Gill returned after missing 10 games due
to a shoulder injury. ... Crosby has one power-play goal in 29
games; Malkin has none in 20.