MONTREAL – Mike Condon was on top of his game on Saturday night. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to secure a Canadiens win.
Condon made 29 stops – including several of the highlight-reel variety – in the Habs’ 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre, as Michel Therrien’s troops failed once again to string consecutive wins together coming off Wednesday’s victory over the New Jersey Devils on home ice.
“Those saves don’t matter unless you get two points,” offered Condon, who stymied Penguins captain Sidney Crosby with a remarkable glove stop during the third period to keep the Canadiens within striking distance down 2-1. “I thought Marc-Andre Fleury had a really great game. It seems like a lot of goalies are having their best games against us. I’m confident we can put the puck in the net, but I think Marc had a great game.”
He definitely did, turning aside 33 shots – including 17 in the final frame alone – to pace the Penguins to their second win of the year over the Canadiens as the two teams wrapped up their three-game regular season series on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Condon offered up a stellar battle at the other end of the ice. Only Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust managed to beat the Holliston, MA native, who was making his second straight start between the pipes.
Given Condon’s performance, captain Max Pacioretty felt particularly bad that the Canadiens weren’t able to offer the rookie netminder more in the way of goal support.
“He shut the door for us, which makes it even more frustrating – knowing that he came up with some big saves against a team like that with such a high-powered offense,” admitted Pacioretty, who was the Canadiens’ most-utilized forward against the Penguins, logging 18 minutes of ice time in the loss. “We’ve got to play better in front of him.”
The Canadiens didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for, either. Outshot by a 12-5 margin through 20 minutes of play, it was Mike Sullivan’s squad that dictated things early on and set the tone for the remainder of the contest. While P.K. Subban tied things up 1-1 with his second goal of the season three-and-half-minutes after Hornqvist found the back of the net, the former Norris Trophy winner believes the CH was never really in a position to give the Penguins a hard time.
“We weren’t good enough coming out of our zone. We didn’t have enough support. As a group, we didn’t support each other well enough. We’re not moving our feet. I think that’s where it started,” confided Subban, who snapped a 33-game goalless drought dating back to Oct. 24 with his tally in the second period. “They were just moving the puck around, coming back in and regrouping, and coming back at us. We’ve got to understand that we’ve got to play a certain way every night to have success. We didn’t do it consistently.”
The Canadiens’ bench boss shared similar thoughts following his club’s 17th loss of the year.
“The guys competed. We had a bit of a tough start, though. We were watching them, and a few of our guys seemed like they were intimidated by just how good the Penguins are,” explained Therrien, whose squad won’t be back in action until next Thursday night when they play host to the Chicago Blackhawks. “I just felt like we were watching them too much.”
With that in mind, the Canadiens will surely be using the next few days not only to rest, but to continue looking for solutions to their struggles on offense and with consistency, in general.
“We have four days in between games right now. We’ve got to play with more intensity than that out of the gate,” concluded Pacioretty. “It was still a hard-fought game until the end. We’ve just got to put pucks on net. We’re not going to win by scoring one goal a game. We need more goals. Obviously, that’s the difference.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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