This was definitely a game that got away from the Montreal Canadiens. The Pittsburgh Penguins were there to be had. Anytime you hold the defending Stanley Cup champions to 25 total shots in a game, including a measly 3 in the 1st period, you have done something and should come out on top of the game. Unfortunately for the Canadiens and their fans that was not the case.
The atmosphere at the Bell Centre was electric. The party began on the street out front around 5:00 p.m. and even though there were only a couple of hundred people in the Bell Centre around 6:00 the first chants of "Crosby sucks" were bellowed. The fans were into it as they had not seen their team play at home for over one week.
The team matched the crowd's enthusiasm by playing a whale of a first period. Not only did they hold the Penguins to a paltry 3 shots on net (Goaltender Jaroslav Halak must have been in shock considering the heavy workload he has gotten used to during this playoff run), but they were creating several great scoring chances of their own.
Pittsburgh's Alex Goligoski was assessed a tripping penalty at 4:22 of the 1st and Montreal had one of the better power-plays I've seen them operate all season. All the big guns were out on the first wave for Montreal with Marc-André Fleury and crowd favourite PK Subban manning the points and a line of Scott Gomez, Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta up front. They moved the puck around quickly with precise passing until Subban had a clear shooting lane. He unleashed a great low shot that Pittsburgh netminder Marc-André Fleury had to stretch his left pad out to the max to get a piece of. It was a great save and kind of indicative of what was to come for the home side.
They did not score on the power-play, but it set the tone for a period in which the Habs dominated. They could only muster 7 shots on Fleury with several good chances being blocked or going wide. There were chances to score and none closer than when late in the period when Maxim Lapierre walked out of the left corner in the Pittsburgh end and came out in front of the net only to see his shot from close in ring off the crossbar.
In the 2nd period it was a complete reversal with Pittsburgh having complete control and outshooting the Canadiens 13-3. Montreal's momentum was broken by a couple of penalties to Lapierre (coincidental minor for roughing with Pittsburgh's pest, Matt Cooke) and Bergeron. Halak was called upon to make some good saves during the 2nd period including a pair on Evgeni Malkin, one on defenceman Kris Letang and then he stopped Cooke on breakaway that happened when Habs' defenceman Ryan O'Byrne fell down. Fans (and the team) still had to have hope when they seemed to weather that 2nd period push by Pittsburgh.
Though it was in the 3rd period that Pittsburgh scored both of their goals, it was really the end of the 2nd period that was the undoing of the Habs. First, defenceman Hal Gill was assessed a dubious holding penalty with 0:12 seconds left. I say dubious because worse had been let go and it was against that whiney (I don't care if he scored the gold medal winning goal for Canada at the Vancouver Olympics – Crosby is a baby!) Sidney Crosby. Then at the very end of the period there was a huge scrum around and behind the Canadiens' net in which Josh Georges and Letang were given matching roughing minors. Georges was mad because Crosby had given him a nice two hander that went unpunished.
As a result of all this the Canadiens were shorthanded and their two best penalty killers (Gill and Georges) were in the box. As if it was scripted, the Penguins struck on the ensuing power-play when Malkin one-timed a pass from Sergei Gonchar at 1:16 and it eluded a partially screened Halak.
Though the Habs had a few other glorious chances in the 3rd by Tomas Plekanac and Cammalleri they were not able to pot a goal. Pascal Dupuis sealed the game with an empty net goal with a mere 0:15 remaining. The Habs had played their best defensive game of the 2010 playoffs, but came up on the short side on the scoreboard.
The 2-0 win for the Penguins allows them to grab back home ice advantage and a 2-1 lead in the best of 7 series. Next game is also at the Bell Centre on Thursday evening starting at 7:00 p.m.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Kevin Pollock and Brad Watson
Linesmen: Derek Amell and Shane Heyer
-Goals: 3rd Period:
1:16 – Pittsburgh – (pp) Evgeni Malkin assisted by Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski
19:45 – Pittsburgh – (en) Pascal Dupuis assisted by Chris Kunitz and Mark Eaton
-Shots on Goal: Montreal: 18
-3 Stars: 1) Marc-André Fleury – Pittsburgh
2) Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh
3) Brian Gionta – Montreal
-Final Score: Montreal: 0