Tonight's matchup featured the top two teams in the Eastern Conference so far, six weeks into the season when the homestanding Montreal Canadiens (14-4-1 with 6 straight wins coming into the night) hosted the 12-3-1 Pittsburgh Penguins, winners of 9 of their past 10.
With all that firepower combining, it didn't take long to see some action, the majority created by Beau Bennett. After a few minutes of "feeling each other out", which included a great save by Marc-Andre Fleury on rookie Jiri Sekac when the Pens were on their heels early, it became the Bennett show. Beau took advantage of a poor pass attempt by Nathan Beaulieu and found time and space in the slot in front of Carey Price. A beauty of a wrister later and Bennett had his first goal of the season in his fourth game.
Next shift out for the 3rd line two game minutes later, Bennett again corralled a puck in the offensive zone and used his vision to find Kris Letang creeping in from the point. The Habs were running around and Letang drew Price out of the net and sold a shot before sliding the puck back across the ice to a wide open Steve Downie to make it 2-0.
Bennett almost made it 3-0 later in the first when Letang returned the favor with a nice stretch pass that caught the Canadiens changing but Price made a great save on Bennett's shot.
Brandon Sutter would make it 3-0 after receiving a beau-tiful pass from Bennett in the second period. Montreal took their first penalty of the game later in the second period, which translated into the Penguins first power play goal of the game seconds later when Sidney Crosby cleaned up a loose puck from next to the net.
And that would be it for the scoring with the Pens easily shrugging off the Habs. A few more thoughts on the game:
- Pens got their goals early in a flurry in the first and that was about it for the action part of the game. Montreal outshot the Pens 27-22, Montreal easily beat Pittsburgh in the faceoff circle (39-25), but they didn't score any goals.
- 25 blocked shots for the Pens tonight, a team effort with Rob Scuderi and Kris Letang (4 a piece) leading the way.
- In addition to the four goals, Nick Spaling and Crosby also hit posts. Could have been even more.
- 3/3 on the PK, 1/1 on the PP, way to win the battle of the special teams, even though the game had already shifted really due to the third line.
- And that 3rd line of Bennett, Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie combined for 3 goals and 3 assists on the night. Bennett was the generator but the other two were solid too when the puck got on their stick.
- Other than Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, guess what Penguin had the most shot attempts? Answer: Blake Comeau with 5 in a cameo tonight on the 1st line, courtesy of a Pascal Dupuis injury/illness.
- Fleury was really good early in the game before the Pens got their legs under them, and stayed sharp late when it looked like a lot of the visitors were already in cruise control with the 4-0 win. Very solid performance for the netminder tonight who deserves his first career shutout over his childhood favorites, Les Habs.
- Poor Robert Bortuzzo, healthy scratch tonight, and can never seem to rise above that 7th spot on the depth chart. Simon Despres was a +2 and had a decent night, Scuderi was a +1 and as mentioned had all those blocked shots and was good on the PK. Bort can't crack the lineup now, even though he hasn't played poorly. It's a shame, but that's the numbers game.
- Bort was scratched because Olli Maatta returned. 2 weeks to the day after a cancerous tumor was removed. Maatta had a team high 3 giveaways, but, without burying the lede, played 20 minutes of +1 hockey despite the fact he had a cancerous tumor cut out of his neck 2 weeks ago. What a human.
The Penguins, after winning that showdown, now move onto an interesting next challenge with a home-and-home series with 2nd-place-in-the-division New York Islanders. Yeah, that won't be boring. Go Pens.