The Canadiens may have lost their opening round match against the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night, but the third period provided a lot of optimism going into Sunday afternoon for the Canadiens club.
Carey Price took over the pipes five minutes into the third period, and only had to face three shots during the duration of his duties.
Another positive attribute is that the Pens did not pepper the Canadiens with shots in this affair. In fact, Montreal outshot Pittsburgh 31-24.
The key to the game was the obvious success of the Penguins power play. Pittsburgh was 4 for 4 on the man advantage Friday night, something Montreal could have easily avoided with strict disciplined hockey.
For success on Sunday afternoon, the Habs will need to be well rested, and play a more disciplined style of hockey, while controlling their emotions, to avoid falling victim to the Penguins lethal power play unit.
Of course, the road ahead is now even more daunting, with the loss of defenceman Andrei Markov. Markov was hit by Matt Cooke, and went down awkwardly favoring his right knee. After the game, CJAD reported that Markov left Mellon Arena using crutches, which shows all indication that this is a serious injury, and a major blow to the Canadiens unit.
On a lighter note, the possibility of P.K. Subban being able to fill Markov’s role improved tonight, as he scored his first career NHL goal. The shot was a bullet from the blue line that put the Canadiens up 1-0 early in the game. Subban also collected about 20 minutes of ice time Friday night at the Igloo.
Before the first period was over the Penguins had answered back with power play goals from Gonchar (whose shot deflected off of Pleks stick, fooling Halak) and Jordan Staal, who was injured later in the game on a hit by Subban.
After some added sauce by the Penguins, Gomez centered a beauty to Cammalleri, who put it top shelf, edging the Penguins lead to 4-2 at the second intermission.
Gionta added another goal to the Habs tally late in the third with a bullet past Fleury, but Billy Guerin sealed the deal with an empty netter, and the Penguins took game 1 of the series 6-3.
Best Hab Tonight
Dominic Moore. While Moore is usually a silent player, he really stood out from the pack tonight. He was battling hard for pucks, skating well, and generating chances. Not to take anything away from Subban tonight, but Moore really impressed me.
Thoughts Going Into Sunday
Have the Penguins been able to solve the Habs penalty kill? It would appear so, after going 4 for 4 on the man advantage. The Penguins were able to cycle the puck, and find efficient scoring lanes, in order to avoid Hal Gill playing the role of goalie No. 2.
Rest. Gorges, Gill, Halak, and AK 46 all looked very tired and worn out during Friday night’s game in Pittsburgh. The boys need to get those feet up, and enjoy Saturday afternoon, to be ready to face a well rested Penguins team on Sunday.
Goalie. If you’re Jacques Martin do you go back with Halak on Sunday afternoon, or turn to Price to lighten the load on Halak, going back to Montreal? Of course a third option would be to let Hal Gill just strap on the pads for a game!
Nobody expected the Canadiens to sweep the Penguins. So let's brush this off, it’s only game one, and re-focus and rest ourselves for game two.
Game two goes Sunday afternoon at 2 PM EDT at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. You can catch the game on RDS, CBC, and NBC.
My Three Stars
* Kris Letang