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Pens/Canadiens Recap: All smiles as Pittsburgh throttles hapless Habs 6-0

The Montreal Canadiens are not very good right now, as the Pens score early and often and get a bounce-back win

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images


It’s the same lines, lineup and goalie for the Penguins for this game as their last contest on Tuesday night.

The Canadiens spice their lineup up, calling up explosive offensive weapon Cole Caufield from the minors and putting him on the first line. Rookie Mattias Norlander gets in for his first NHL game on defense.

First period

The Pens strike first and early, just 3:36 in on a classic rush by their top line. Bryan Rust makes a great backhand pass over to the right for Jake Guentzel. The defender takes out the goalie as they scramble and Guentzel reads the play quickly to just chip the puck over on a short pass to Sidney Crosby. It’s a simple tap in goal for Sid into the empty net for his first goal of the season.

Rust takes a tripping penalty later that shift to send the Habs to the game’s first power play, but the Pittsburgh PK holds.

Guentzel draws a high-stick to send the Pens to their first power play of the night. The struggling group looks bad for most of it but John Marino’s slapshot goes wide, hits the board and bounces out. Jason Zucker has a great chance to score on the rebound but whiffs and the puck goes out further to Danton Heinen. Heinen doesn’t miss, shooting hard and the puck goes off goalie Cayden Primeau’s shoulder and into the net. 2-0 Pens.

The power play officially ended one second prior to the goal, so it doesn’t get credit for the goal, but end result is the same.

The first line produces another goal before intermission. Kris Letang enters the zone, drops it for Rust and heads towards the net. For the second time in the period, Rust is on the left side and makes a backhand pass across the ice to Guentzel. Guentzel flings a long-distance shot and Letang’s screen is enough for the goal to pop in the net on Primeau. 3-0 Pens, and woof, it doesn’t look like Montreal’s night.

Shots in the first are 16-5 in favor of Pittsburgh. The Canadiens look like they’re stuck at half speed, perhaps the slowest and least confident-looking team the Pens have seen in a long while. 3-0 on the scoreboard, feels like it might as well be 30-0.

Second period

For the first time all game, Montreal actually shows some jump and gets into the game a bit with Caufield buzzing around the o-zone and Jonathan Drouin making Tristan Jarry make a nice save later from in front.

The Pens really look like they’ve already put it into coast mode for a while, even this early. Not a ton of pressure. Then like everyone on Montreal gets caught asleep somehow and it leaves Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger basically on a quick 2-on-0 with all the Habs on the wrong side of the puck. Aston-Reese pops the puck over for Blueger who slings a nice shot past Primeau and Pittsburgh pushes their lead out to 4-0.

The Pens get another as the floodgates reopen. It’s the checking line again, and more help from the defense. Pittsburgh goes low-to-high with Blueger feeding Mike Matheson for a point shot. Brock McGinn is in front of the net and puts a tip on the puck on the way through. 5-0 Pens with 3:48 remaining in the second.

Shots in the second end up 15-9 Pens, who came to life a bit in the latter part of the period. Montreal, however, barely showing a pulse in this game. Shots in the game are 31-14 Pittsburgh.

Third period

Cayden Primeau gets the mercy hook and won’t return to the ice for the third, it will be organizational fourth string goalie Sam Montembeault playing for the home team.

Letang snipes but hits the post, unable to score in his hometown.

And, pretty much nothing else interesting happened. Winning 5-0, it is good to be boring.

Oh wait, Teddy Blueger scores his second goal of the game on a breakaway, scoring five hole with a few seconds left. Cool, cool. 6-0 blowout for the final score.

Some thoughts

  • For all the talk that Guentzel and Rust ride Crosby’s coattails (and hey, of course they benefit for playing with one of the greatest of all time!), the first goal was a perfect example of the linemates making magic to return the favor. Rust won a puck in the neutral zone, led the charge and made a great pass to the right player in the situation. Guentzel used his super-high hockey IQ to see the defense and goalie collapse as it happened and made an immediate pass to the dangerous player in Crosby. And all Sid had to do was put it home with nothing in his way. Gorgeous play, and exactly why this line always plays together.
  • Pens now up to a 6-1-0 record this season when scoring first in a game. They’re 0-5-4 when they give up the first goal of the game. Getting that first goal and a 1-0 lead in NHL hockey is so, so important. (Going up 3-0 before the first intermission? Even better!)
  • The second goal of the night for Heinen just shows the type of bounces/luck that the Pens could not find in the last week or two. First, the puck hit the back wall and popped right out where not one, but two players had a chance at it. Heinen’s shot potentially could have been stopped too, hitting the goalie and still caroming into the net. Sometimes you get the breaks, sometimes not.
  • Tonight was history too. Per the great Bob Grove, this was the 217th PIT/MTL game and the very first time the Pens had a five goal lead going into the third period. Pittsburgh has only won now 27 times in history @Montreal. The Pens only won there 10 times pre-2005. That stat seems jarring, but it shows just how good the Habs were in the ‘60s, ‘70s, even ‘80s and how far they’ve fallen.
  • Nice job for Jarry getting a shutout, his first of the season. Only had to make 24 saves all night, and very few challenging moments for him. Not sure he might even need a post-game shower, probably didn’t work up much of a sweat. But a shutout is a shutout.
  • Five different goal-scorers too. The top line got two, the third line chipped in three, which is always important since that line can go very long stretches without generating offense.
  • The Pens’ defense was instrumental in generating offense too, which is usually the case when the team is playing well. Guentzel’s goal isn’t scored without Letang’s zone entry and screen. Heinen’s goal isn’t scored without Marino’s shot. McGinn’s goal isn’t scored without Matheson’s shot. That’s the names you want to see active on the Pittsburgh blue-line offensively.
  • But really, it’s tough to tell if the Pens had a good night or right now if Montreal is just that bad. They were atrocious in this game. No jump, no effort, no skill, no anything. The Pens weren’t exactly tremendous coming into this game, and at least get some confidence out of this one.

Now the question for the Pens, how much of this bounce back can they sustain? It’ll be a much tougher challenge next game — Toronto has now won eight of their last nine games and is clicking on all cylinders.