So how about those Habs, eh?
Just when you think they're going to wilt and die, the cardiac Canadiens pull off another improbable win.
Last night, down 2-1 in the game and being outshot 26-9 after two periods, the Canadiens got back into things from an unlikely source.
The Habs' Maxim Lapierre, who continues to play his best hockey of the season, beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a wrap-around goal that surprised the Pens' netminder.
Less than two minutes later, Brian Gionta got his fifth of the playoffs—the game winning goal—when his centering pass banked off of Chris Kunitz's skate and in.
The Canadiens, buoyed by the frenzied Bell Centre crowd, carried the play in the third period, outshooting the Pens 16-9, pulling out an unlikely comeback win, and tying the series in the process.
Final score: Habs 3 - Pens 2. The series is tied 2-2.
1. Jaroslav Halak continues to give the Habs a chance to win every game.
The main reason that Canadiens eliminated the Washington Capitals in Round One and are tied with the Pens in Round Two is Halak.
The Habs' netminder is playing the best hockey of his life and is in the kind of zone that can carry a team to glory. Now the Habs have a long way to go but with Halak in nets, routinely facing and stopping more than 35 shots a night, anything is possible.
Halak kept the Canadiens in the game as the Pens looked every bit the defending champions over the first forty minutes of play.
His win last night pushed his record when facing 35 or more shots, this season, to an unbelievable 15-0-1.
2. The third and fourth lines were keys to the Habs' win.
The Canadiens recipe for success this season has been outstanding goaltending, opportunistic scoring, great special teams, and goals from the third and fourth lines.
Last night, the bottom six players played a huge role in the Canadiens victory.
Starting with Tom Pyatt's first goal—from Travis Moen and Glen Metropolit—at 2:34 of the first period, and ending with Lapierre's second goal of the playoffs—the tying goal—the bottom six players made a difference last night.
Lapierre, in particular, had a hop to his step all night as he took the body, went to the net, and moved his feet to cause havoc for the Pens' defenders.
It was Lapierre's line that started to shift the momentum towards the Canadiens early in the third period, as his tenacious forecheck kept the puck in the Pens' zone and led to the tying goal.
From there, the Canadiens ran with the energy of the building and completely dominated the third period.
3. Brian Gionta is the unofficial captain of this team.
Gionta was the player who picked this team up on his shoulders and led them to victory last night. Not only did he score the winning goal, but he was visibly upset after all of the missed calls by the refs and played with incredible vigor and intensity during the third period as a result.
You see that he had in his head that they were not going to lose that game and his energy made the rest of the team play just as strong as him.
During a post game CBC interview, when asked about all of the missed/bad calls by the refs, Gionta simply said he wouldn't comment on that.
That is leadership. And that is the man who is showing the way for the rest of the team.
If he doesn't get the 'C' in the offseason, I'll be shocked.
4. Speaking of leadership, Josh Gorges continues to be the Habs' unsung hero.
Night in and night out, Gorges is blocking shots, killing penalties, making great first passes, and is responsible for shutting down the opposition's top offensive unit.
That Sidney Crosby only has three assists over the first four games of this series is a testament to Gorges' work.
5. A note on the refs.
I hate talking about the refs. I don't like complaining about them, and I don't like blaming them for the outcome of any game.
I feel that the refs are a variable, like the weather, that is out of the players' control and that they should try to win regardless of whether the refs are good or bad.
Last night, however, the number of missed calls against the Montreal Canadiens was egregious. Some will say that this is a conspiracy and that the NHL and Gary Bettman want the Pens to win another cup.
I'm here to tell you that it is not. So please, take off your tinfoil hats.
No, last night was just bad work by the refs, pure and simple. They botched it.
During the intermission on CBC, yesterday, they showed a clip of seven missed calls by the refs against the Canadiens, and one marginal call on Gionta. Don Cherry was livid about how bad the refs work was.
When Don Cherry and the CBC—neither of who are pro-Montreal—are saying that the refs are bad, you know that something is off.
The Canadiens won, however, despite the bad work by the officials and that's what sport is about. A ref has a difficult, subjective job and they have to do their best to make calls when things are happening quickly, on the ice.
I think that it is loser talk to blame the refs for a loss.
The Canadiens won last night despite the refs, not because of them, and that's what being a professional athlete is all about.
Look Out Ahead!
Wow, what to expect for the next game? Who knows? If there is one thing that is certain it is that the Canadiens, currently missing two of their top three defensemen—Andrei Markov and Jaroslav Spacek—believe in themselves.
They have the confidence that they can beat anyone right now, and that is invaluable during the playoffs.
As for the Pens, they've been down this road before and will not be scared going into Game Five. Nervous yes, but not scared as they are a team that has been to the cup finals two years in a row.
If, however, the Canadiens can take the lead into the third period on Saturday, and Halak can continue to frustrate the Pens scorers, then perhaps doubt will start to creep into their heads.
As soon as you start to doubt yourself in the playoffs, you are as good as done. If your mind doesn't believe, then your body will not follow.
Look for the Pens to have Bill Guerin back in the lineup for Saturday's Game Five.
Both teams travel back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game Five. Will the Pens win and come back to Montreal with a chance to close out the series? Will the Canadiens steal one in Pittsburgh and come back to Montreal with a chance to eliminate the defending champs?
The way this series has played out so far, anything can happen and it is likely to be one heck of an entertaining game!
So what do you think? Who will win on Monday? Have the Pens started to doubt themselves? Can the Habs really oust them or will the Pens roll over them from here on out? Let us know what you think.
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