The Montreal Canadiens have made their calling card this post-season in frustrating defense, blocking shots, timely scoring and tremendous goalie play.
Playing in perhaps the hostile environment; in fron of 21,273 crazy, screaming fanatics; the Penguins decided to take a page out of the Habs playbook. Pittsburgh blocked more shots (18-16), and actually got outshot in the first period (7-3). The tide turned later in the game in shots, but the Pens definitely buckled down and commited to beating them at their own game.
The game would remain scoreless until the third period when Sergei Gonchar fed Evgeni Malkin on the power play and Geno unleashed a great shot that beat Jaroslav Halak. Pascal Dupuis would tack on an empty netter to finish up the scoring.
But that would hardly do justice to what Marc-Andre Fleury did. 18 saves on 18 shots may not jump off the stat sheet, but to see some of the quick motions and toe saves he made. It was special.
- Evgeni Malkin was also as fierce. Tied for a game high 7 shots on goal (and 11 shot attempts), but more importantly he looked like the best player on the ice out there. What will Ron Cook write about now?
- So what of Sidney Crosby? The Earth's most talented player failed to score (but was a +2) and only got one shot on goal, but he also won 62% of his 21 faceoffs and generally played well.
- Jordan Leopold and Brooks Orpik combined for 13 blocked shots (7 for Free Candy, 6 for Jordan-2). They personified the efforts to step it up and shut it down.
- Mark Letestu had an eventful first NHL playoff game: he played 12:42, took 10 faceoffs (winning 4), had 2 hits and got 2 shots on goal (with 5 attempted). Letestu didn't look out of place, but with Jordan Staal skating again, who knows how many times Letestu will be in the lineup.
- Mathieu Darche had the best seat in the house. He skated 0 shifts, for 0:00, but hey, he can tell his grandkids he had a ront-row seat (literally) to watch the defending Cup champs play, right?
- The same ref crew fresh off a controversial Detroit/San Jose game had this one, and for the most part they "let the boys play". Both teams got away with some hooking/holding/grabbing and after whistle confrontations didn't lead to much in the way of penalties. But nothing outrageous for either side, one would have to say.
At the end of the day, Malkin scored on a power play and Fleury and the Pens defense had the answers. Ole, ole ole ole. Pens win, playing Montreal's game better than they could play it themselves. Series 2-1, Pittsburgh. See ya Thursday.