Montreal 1, Pittsburgh 3 (Mellon Arena)
Tonight, the defending Stanley Cup champions were too much for the Calder Cup contenders.
The members of the Canadiens injury-depleted lineup, playing in their second game in as many nights, could not compete with Pittsburgh, one of the league's elite teams. The Penguins now lead the NHL with 17 wins.
While the Pens have their own injury concerns, the Canadiens still had to face the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and Sergei Gonchar.
The Habs injury list continued to grow with Andrei Kostitsyn being sidelined with a foot injury after blocking a shot near the conclusion of the Columbus game on Tuesday.
The Canadiens stayed with the Penguins in the first period. Shots on goal were eight-to-eight. Hits were 19-to-11 for the Pens. Sidney Crosby opened the scoring by firing a perfect shot into the net's top corner while using Paul Mara as a screen.
Pittsburgh took control of the game in the second period. The Pens took 16 shots to the Canadiens' seven, and a slow whistle allowed Bill Guerin to dislodge the puck from between Carey Price's pads and into the net.
Later in the period, Crosby spotted Gonchar gliding all alone in the slot and sent in a perfect backhand pass. Gonchar finished, and the Penguins led 3-0, as JT Wyman looked lost on the play for Montreal.
One must wonder why coach Jacques Martin would have Wyman, David Desharnais, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Jay Leach out against Crosby, Staal, and Gonchar anyway.
The Canadiens did have scoring chances.
Facing an open side of the net, Michael Cammalleri simply missed the puck as it rebounded off Marc-Andre Fleury's pads from a shot off the stick of Tomas Plekanec. Max Pacioretty put a shot past Fleury, but rang it off the crossbar. Ryan O'Byrne had a short-handed chance from the slot after a rush behind the net by Plekanec, but Fleury made a good glove save.
The Canadiens tried to mount another third period comeback. Pacioretty scored on a nice setup from Sergei Kostitsyn, but fatigue and facing a superior opponent meant that it wasn't happening Wednesday night.
With back-to-back games and punishing hitting by Pittsburgh, the Canadiens just looked tired. It was an admirable effort by Pacioretty, Kostitsyn, Paul Mara, and Ryan White.
Wyman and Desharnais, each called up in the last few days from the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs, looked out of place at times. One wonders if Brock Trotter and Mike Glumac might have been better options.
It was another 30-shot game for Carey Price. While he wasn't otherworldly, he made some big saves with Penguins left alone on his doorstep all night.
Pacioretty was injured as a result of a blindside hit from Michael Rupp with seven minutes remaining and did not return to the game. While he was a little dizzy, Pacioretty expects to be available for the game on Saturday.
Rocket's Three Stars
1. Sidney Crosby
2. Sergei Gonchar
3. Max Pacioretty
Special mentions: Paul Mara, Ryan White