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Giguere, Avalanche Blank Penguins 1-0


Justin K. Aller

Last year, a hot goaltender stole an entire playoff series from a previously well-oiled Penguins offense.

The script didn't play quite the same on Monday -- the Penguins put 34 shots on Colorado's Jean-Sebastien Giguere, where they would have been lucky to put 34 shots off Zdeno Chara's shinpads last spring. Still, the Avs' rope-a-dope approach was enough to tame the Penguins at home, 1-0, giving Pittsburgh its first home loss of the season and moving their own record to a surprising 8-1-0.

Gabriel Landeskog's second-period marker was the only tally on the night.

"We deserved better," Sidney Crosby said. "That's how the game works sometimes."

Pittsburgh controlled play from gate-to-gate, outshooting the Avalanche 34-14 while collecting seven power play opportunities.

Veteran netminder Giguere, who entered the contest with an outstanding .971 save percentage, fought off all 34 shots the Penguins could get through traffic.

Giguere wasn't alone. Colorado blocked 22 Pittsburgh shots, taking time and space away from the Pens' attack. When they couldn't get in the way, Giguere snuffed out the rest.

In total, the Penguins attempted more than 70 shots on the night, but the Avalanche played the kind of risk-averse defensive game that recalled shades of the Montreal Canadiens' improbable 2010 playoff run.

Colorado managed just 14 shots on the night, but Landeskog's lone marker was still enough to hand Marc-Andre Fleury his first loss of the season.

"They defended well," Fleury said. "Giguere made some big saves for them."

Following Landeskog's screened wrister, the Avalanche went into a defensive posture that the Penguins failed to solve.

Most impressive was their 7-for-7 performance on the penalty kill.

"For us, every win is important," Avs coach Patrick Roy said. "And this one is very special for us. [It's] not very often you're going to win in Pittsburgh giving them seven power plays.

"Your goalie needs to be your best player in those situations, and 'Giggy' was our best player."

Colorado entered the contest a perfect 10-for-10 on the penalty kill during road games. Pittsburgh benefited from its seven man-advantage chances, hemming Colorado in its own zone for long stretches and allowing Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to rack up 26 and 24-plus minutes on the game, respectively.

Despite 15 combined shots from the Penguins' top centers, Colorado's penalty kill and team defense emerged unscathed.

"I really liked the commitment that our players make in those shorthanded situations, where we blocked a lot of shots and we had great sticks," Roy said, "and we really made a great commitment defensively tonight, no doubt about it."

Although both clubs have provided adept defensive play this season, it was their high-flying offenses which were supposed to steal the show.

Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon, both products of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia and both former first-overall picks, were the heralded match-up of the evening. Aside from Crosby's ankle-breaking deke of the youngster, both were held in check.

Pittsburgh, which remains the only Metropolitan Division team with a winning record (overtime losses are losses), now has until its next match on Friday to make up its mind on rookie defender Olli Maatta.

Maatta's status has been the subject of much conjecture in Pittsburgh, especially given the pending return of Kris Letang and a growing list of NHL-ready defenders sitting in Wilkes-Barre Scranton.

Should he stay, Maatta would be the first Penguins player with junior eligibility to remain with the team beyond the nine-game entry level contract threshold since Jordan Staal in 2007.

The Penguins have the next three days off, but Maatta's situation ought to keep things interesting in the meantime.

Audio & quotes courtesy Jason Seidling, Ali Doyle & Pittsburgh Penguins