It took less than a minute to determine the winner of the game seven battle between the Cinderella-Story Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins – who failed to overcome an early 4-0 deficit, despite scoring two in the second period.
Once again, the combination of Jaroslav Halak, Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta was too much for the defending Stanley Cup Champions, ending game seven with Montreal on top, 5-2 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Halak dominated all attackers with 36 saves and a .947 save percentage.
With tensions high, it took only 32 seconds for the eighth seeded Canadians to take the lead in the first period of game seven on the power play goal from Brian Gionta – his sixth of the playoffs.
Montreal maintained control of the puck for the majority of the first period, as the Penguins often seemed slow to the puck and sloppy between the blue lines. The Canadiens successfully killed of their first penalty of the game, nearly scoring shorthanded on multiple rushes against lethargic Penguins team.
Montreal’s confidence was very apparent early in the first period – capitalizing on Pittsburgh’s lethargic movement to the puck and urgency on the power play. While shorthanded themselves, the Canadiens successfully killed off their first penalty of the game that included multiple rushes of their own.
Halak once again showed his recent maturity as a playoff goalie in the first, when he game 12 feet out of the net to confront a charging Evgeni Malkin – who had a sure goal in his hands.
The aggressiveness of the Montreal forwards continued when they increased their first period lead to 2-0 on the wrist shot from Dominic Moore at 14:23 – his third of the playoffs – after intense pressure on the Pen’s blue line in the offensive zone.
Following the first intermission, turnovers continued to plague Pittsburgh, along with the task of covering the speedy Mike Cammalleri (12), who scored on a snapshot assisted by Andrei Kostitsyn and Halak at 3:32.
Another turnover just two minutes later led to the shorthanded goal by Travis Moen on a 32-foot snapshot to increase the Canadien’s lead to 4-0 in the second– prompting Penguins coach Michel Therrin’s removal of starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and the substitution of 33-year-old Brent Johnson.
Finally, with 11:24 left in the second period, the Penguins showed signs of life when Chris Kunitz (4) scored on the pass from Kris Letang with a wristshot – giving Pen’s fans some hope that this wasn’t going to be the last game in Mellon Arena.
Pittsburgh continued to gain momentum as the second period dwindled down. Jordan Staal (3) scored on the deflection at 16:30 to edge the Penguins with two, with Montreal leading 4-2.
One minute before the end of the second, emotions over flowed and the first major brawl broke out between the majority of the players on the ice – primarily Staal between Cammalleri, who both received penalties.
The Penguins began the third period with a four on three power play – but failed to convert for the fifth time after multiple clutch stops by Halak in net.
As Halak success continued, pressure lessened on the Montreal forwards, allowing Cammalleri to set up Brian Gionta (7) for his second goal of the night to increase the lead to 5-2 at 10:00 in the third.
The Penguins loss marked the final game to be played at Mellon Arena, which has been their home ice since 1967.