The Pittsburgh Penguins are still going strong. This thirteenth-straight win is the second-most in franchise history and has bumped the Pens to first place in the NHL. Not many people's favorite place to be, especially for you superstitious folk, but the Pens are working hard and getting the wins. All there is to it.
Both teams started strong defensively, but the difference was the Pens just couldn't get going on offense. The Montreal Canadiens defense was all over the Pens forcing errant passes which is why nothing was connecting once the Pens were in the offensive zone. It didn't help that the Pens were hitting some bad luck with shots off the heel of the stick. Overall fantastic defensive work by the Habs.
Not only were they good defensively, but they were taking it to the Pens' defense. Marc-Andre Fleury, as he has been, and the rest of the defense matched everything the Habs threw their way and somehow came out of the first period unscathed.
The Pens eventually evened the ice and found sustained pressure. On the first major mistake the Habs made, leaving Sidney Crosby unmarked, the Pens did what they do best. Chris Kunitz sent a perfect heads-up stretch pass that found Crosby in stride. Andrei Markov wasn't going to catch up with Crosby who absolutely ripped a shot by Carey Price. It didn't even matter that Price was off his angle; Crosby's shot was deadly.
Just like that, the chances became more frequent. Matt Cooke sent a pass from his knees to an open Brandon Sutter who couldn't capitalize. Still a great play. It was a tight game throughout with a playoff feel, as the score indicates, and the goalies were to thank for that.
Then at the end of the second period, disaster struck. Brian Gionta, as he was crashing the net, pushed Tyler Kennedy into Fleury who received a nice whack in the noggin. Pens fans held their breathe as we went into intermission. At the start of the third, our fears were confirmed: Tomas Vokoun was taking his place between the pipes. Not long into the third, Matt Cooke gets called for being Matt Cooke and the Pens are on the kill. Vokoun, like Fleury, was perfect and carried the Pens to their third shutout win of the season.
Brenden Morrow's first game as a Penguin was as uneventful as it gets and that's not a bad thing. He started the game on the third line, but it didn't take long till he joined James Neal and Dustin Jeffrey on the second line. What was immediately noticeable about Morrow was his physical presence. He quickly stole the hearts of Pens fans by knocking P.K. Subban to his hands and knees early in the game. Nothing else to really say about him, but I hope he can get comfortable in this system that really is perfect for him, soon.
Kris Letang returned after missing a few games, but you could tell something wasn't right. He confirmed this when he told reporters after the game that he wasn't 100-percent after the first period. My question to Letang is why he pushed it? Look at the standings; there is no need for Letang to put himself at a greater risk for a worse injury, especially if Fleury is going to be missing time.
Speaking of the goalie, no news on that front other than he's being evaluated. As always, mum's the word with Bylsma. I don't have a good feeling about this.
I'll close the recap with Michel Therrien's always-honest words:
"We got beat tonight by the best player in the world by the perfect shot. "
Winnipeg in two days and we get another new face, Douglas Murray, to add to the lineup.