PITTSBURGH - If the rest of the NHL wants a game plan for slowing Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, the Boston Bruins provided it. Of course, it helps to have a defenceman as skilled as the six-foot-nine Zdeno Chara to carry it out.
Petteri Nokelainen and Vladimir Sobotka scored less than two minutes apart during the first period and the Bruins frustrated Pittsburgh with a smothering defence, then held on for a 2-1 victory despite allowing Malkin's third-period goal Wednesday night.
The Bruins were so strong defensively most of the game, goalie Tim Thomas saw only a single shot during one 15-minute stretch of the second period and faced only 11 during the first two periods. Malkin scored his 32nd goal of the season with about seven minutes remaining, his fourth goal in three games.
Malkin, moved to centre on the Penguins' top line after star Sidney Crosby sprained an ankle nearly a month ago, piled up 15 points during a string of five consecutive multipoint games that moved him within three points of NHL scoring leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Pittsburgh had won its last three and four of five.
But with Chara on the ice nearly every time Malkin took a shift, Malkin was limited to a single shot until the third period, when he scored on a power play created by Dennis Wideman's second penalty of the period. Chara was chosen as the game's No. 1 star despite not getting a point.
"The first period was one of the worst we've played this year," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "Right now we are relying on our first line, Malkin's line to carry the team. We can't expect to score three to four goals a night. It is not going to happen. Right now, our depth players aren't chipping in."
The Bruins were coming off a 3-2 loss at home to Carolina on Tuesday and had dropped four of five.
"We really need to play like this the rest of the season, this is a desperate time with the way the standings are," Chara said. "We played hard for each other and stuck together."
The Penguins were 1-for-8 on the power play after going 9-for-21 in their previous five games.
"The penalty killers won the game for us," Thomas said. "I thought we were ready from the beginning to play our game, the kind of game we set out to play. We were doing all the little things."
Still, this win may have come at a price as Boston defenseman Aaron Ward was taken to a hospital with a neck injury after being hurt early in the second period. Ward was not bleeding when he left the ice, but coach Claude Julien said he coughed up some blood.
The Bruins did not immediately reveal the nature of the injury, but Julien said Ward would remain in the hospital for at least a day. Ward was listed in stable condition.
"I got there and he was making a choking sound, holding his throat and gasping for air," said Chara, who was told that Ward was not seriously hurt.
Ward was skating in to hit Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar near the end boards when Gonchar accidentally got either his forearm or his stick up and struck Ward in the neck. There was no penalty on the play.
Ward's injury came only four days after Florida right wing Richard Zednik's neck was accidentally sliced by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate blade, cutting his carotid artery and stopping close to his jugular vein. Zednik lost a large quantity of blood, but is recovering quickly and was upgraded to good condition in a Buffalo hospital Wednesday.
Some sloppy Penguins defensive play allowed Boston to take its 2-0 lead.
Nokelainen made it 1-0 with 12:58 gone in the first, putting in a rebound after Gonchar gave the puck up in his own end and Milan Lucic threw it toward the net.
Sobotka got the first goal of NHL career, in his 28th career game, only 1:45 after Nokelainen scored. Goalie Ty Conklin - who made 31 saves - was attempting to clear the puck, but Shawn Thornton's hard check knocked defenceman Georges Laraque off the puck and allowed Sobotka to score on a soft shot from in front.
"I'm just so happy I scored my first goal in the NHL," said Sobotka, who is certain his parents were watching in the Czech Republic. "I just shot the puck and he (Conklin) went down - it was a lucky goal, but it was my first goal, so I'm glad."
Sobotka's first goal came a night after Thornton scored his first two goals of the season in a 27-second span against Carolina.
Notes: Despite winning, the Bruins are 4-7-1 when playing on the second night of back-to-back games. ... Pittsburgh is 10-2-1 in its last 13 home games. ... The Penguins finished 3-1 on a four-game homestand that started last Thursday. ... Boston played the first game of a five-game trip after losing its last four at home. The Bruins are 15-11-2 on the road. ... Pittsburgh is 6-3-2 without Crosby.