PITTSBURGH -- The two main ingredients from Montreal's monumental upset of the Washington Capitals -- penalty killing and Jaroslav Halak -- were back in top form Sunday, and the Canadiens were victorious in Game 2 of this Eastern Conference Semifinal series because of it.
Montreal went 3-for-3 killing penalties and Halak made 38 saves in a 3-1 win Sunday afternoon at Mellon Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I think when you look at the job they did in the first round, I think [our PK] was exceptional," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "The other night I give credit to Pittsburgh -- they had good execution and we weren't sharp. As much as Game 1 was dictated by special teams and goaltending, it was reversed today. We won the special teams, and our goaltending was a factor."
The Canadiens shut down Washington's top-rated power play from the regular season, holding the Capitals to one extra-man goal in 33 tries in their seven-game series triumph. That didn't stop the Penguins from carving up Montreal's penalty killers in Game 1 as they converted on all four power-play chances.
Montreal bounced back in a big way on Sunday. The Penguins had three consecutive power plays after the Canadiens grabbed a 2-1 lead and failed to score. The Canadiens spent more than half of the first 10 minutes of the third period down a man, but they held the Penguins to only four power-play shots.
"I think they were a little more aggressive in the neutral zone, broke up some plays and took away some rhythm," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "We still had some chances around the net, pucks go through the crease. It is just a matter of inches; that's what it comes down to. It's just a matter of getting shots away and figuring out ways to get rebounds and things like that. It's a very small margin for error and we weren't able to get it done today."
Added Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma: "One of the key components of the power play is always the breakouts. We weren't as good at that. We didn't do a good job, especially in the third [period] entering the puck. … We didn't establish that shooter's mentality and we didn't get the zone time that we had."
Before the penalty killers saved the Canadiens, it was Halak who kept them afloat. Halak continued his roller coaster postseason, coming back from being yanked in Game 1 to frustrate the Pittsburgh offense, which dominated possession of the puck.
Halak is 10-0-1 this year, including the regular season, when he faces 40 shots. He didn't quite make it there Sunday afternoon, but 38 of 39 is still pretty impressive.
"It was a tough start for whole team. I needed to be better -- I knew that," Halak said. "I think the guys knew that they need to step up. We did that tonight."
Halak was at his best right after he allowed Matt Cooke's goal to open the scoring 4:38 into the first period, and throughout the second. The Penguins created several more great chances after Cooke's tally, but Halak did not let them extend the lead.
After Brian Gionta leveled the score at one, Halak made 18 saves in a second period that was completely dominated by Pittsburgh. Despite being outshot 18-3, the Canadiens scored the only goal and led going into the final 20 minutes.
"It should just be our strategy -- let [Halak] face about 50 shots. It is one those things -- you just do whatever it takes in the playoffs," forward Scott Gomez said. "We tried to keep them to the outside, but they still got some good chances. We'll enjoy this for about an hour and then it is right back to business. We came for one and now we can go home to play in front of our fans."
Added Michael Cammalleri: "It was a little reminiscent of some of the [wins] we've had so far this postseason, but I thought we did a lot of things that we wanted to do. We were trying to limit their top scoring chances, or their Grade A scoring chances. They still got some and [Halak] played well. We played a pretty patient game and we got a win. We'd probably like to not be outshot and outchanced as badly once again, but all that really matters is we got the split and we're going home."