MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens went to the dressing room for the second intermission even with the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the necessary damage in this tightly-contested playoff game had already been done.
After carrying the play for much of the first period, the Canadiens did not match Pittsburgh's push in the middle 20 minutes. The consistent pressure by the Penguins eventually led a penalty on Hall Gill late in the period -- and Pittsburgh took advantage early in the third.
"In the second period I didn't think we were making the right plays at the right times," defenseman Josh Georges said after Tuesday night's 2-0 loss in Game 3. "I thought we spent too much time in our own end and that's when they got all those shots and we took a penalty that ended up being the difference."
The Penguins had only three shots in the first period, but came back with 13 in the second and dominated play for long stretches. Pittsburgh's top line had Montreal hemmed in their own zone for a long shift near the end of the middle period.
Gill held up Sidney Crosby as he tried to chase after the puck in the right corner and was sent to the box for holding. The power play carried over to the start of the third period, and Evgeni Malkin scored at 1:16 to put Pittsburgh ahead to stay.
"That's no fun," Gill said. "That's disappointing. That's a sickening feeling when you're in the box when they score. Company doesn't help."
His company in the penalty box was Gorges, and that was a big part of the story. Gill and Gorges are two of Montreal's best penalty-killers, and they've been fantastic at it in this postseason.
Gorges was stuck in the box because of a scrum just seconds after Gill's penalty. Crosby fell to the ice after it appeared Gorges' stick hit him in the back of the helmet. Players from both sides stepped in, and a lot of pushing and shoving ensued.
"I'm not really sure what started the whole thing," Gorges said. "He was down and I stopped in front of him. You always do that in a game. I think he thought I was going to start something and gave me a little hack on the foot – nothing crazy. I think the rest of their team thought that I was going to retaliate in some way and came in to his defense. I don't think it was really anything."
Gorges and Pittsburgh's Kris Letang were sent off for roughing, leaving the Penguins still in possession of a 5-on-4 -- but the Canadiens without two key weapons on the PK.
"The ref at the end said he was going to take either me or [Roman Hamrlik]," Gorges said. "He wasn't going to take us both, so he took me. He didn't want to put both of us defensemen in the box, which I thought was a fair assessment. I'm not sure why it was me."
The two guys who stepped in for Gill and Gorges were Hamrlik and rookie P.K. Subban. After two fruitless power plays earlier in the game, the Penguins sustained pressure to start the third period before Malkin's goal.
Subban made a fantastic play, diving to knock away a Crosby pass headed for a wide-open Chris Kunitz, but Crosby was able to provide a partial screen for a Malkin slap shot from the top of the right circle while Gill and Gorges looked on.
"That wasn't what we wanted obviously but we have guys that can step in," Gorges said. "The guys who were out there – P.K. and [Hamrlik] did a good job. P.K. had a great diving play with a good stick to knock probably a sure goal away and a couple good clears. There was a just a miscue out front and those guys have good players. If you give them a chance, they're going to make stuff happen. Obviously I would have liked to be out there but there's nothing you can do about it."
Added Halak: "I did see at the end. There was a little bit of a screen and maybe I should have stopped that one but it went in."
It was the only goal Pittsburgh needed, and it was another great start squandered by Montreal at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens were even with the Washington Capitals after one period in Games 3 and 4 of their first-round series but also struggled in the second period and lost both games.
"I thought our first period was extremely good," forward Brian Gionta said. "We were skating really well and getting to some good chances. We let up a little in the second and they got a power play goal early in the third.
"They're going to adjust. They're a good team with experienced guys that know how to play under pressure. They're going to make adjustments when we come out like that [in the first], and it is just a matter of countering that."