PITTSBURGH – In a season filled with firsts, Habs goaltender Mike Condon continues to learn on the job.
After making his first career NHL start on October 11 in Ottawa, then next becoming the first Habs goalie to win his first four games since Wayne Thomas in 1972-73, to most recently earning his first league-wide Star of the Week nod, the rookie netminder took part in his first NHL shootout on Wednesday against the Penguins.
While the 25-year-old’s first shootout victory may have to wait another day -- the Habs fell 4-3 in Pittsburgh in the tie-breaking frame -- his first regulation loss will more importantly have to wait, too.
“In the shootout anything can happen, but at the end of the day Condo gave us the chance to win another hockey game and that’s all that we can ask for,” underlined defenseman P.K. Subban, who saw Condon turn aside 31 shots -- including 17 in the third period -- to lead his teammates to OT. “The shootout is 50-50, you need some luck. At the end of the day he made some huge key saves to even get us the point. We don’t get to 3-on-3 without him tonight.”
Indeed, with a 6-0-2 record, the Holliston, MA native has picked up points in each of his NHL outings to date, helping his teammates earn 14 out of the possible 16 which have been up for grabs so far.
“He was great. He gave us a chance, and it’s frustrating because we wanted to make him look as good as he continues to make us look. We wish we could have gotten the two points for him because he played another outstanding game tonight,” continued captain Max Pacioretty, who picked up an assist on Brendan Gallagher’s second-period equalizer. “We came out slow. We came out a little flat and there’s no excuse for that. I think we picked it up a little bit in parts of the first period and then played really well in the second. It’s frustrating, but it’s an experience to learn from.”
To say the Habs played well in the middle frame is an understatement. In addition to storming back from a 2-1 deficit to head into the final 20 with a 3-2 lead, the Canadiens also limited the Penguins to a single shot.
“It was a good game. Pittsburgh a lot of skill and speed, but we weathered the storm for a long time in the first, and dominated the second,” acknowledged Condon. “We had a couple of bad bounces and then some tough breaks in overtime with the penalties, but that’s hockey.”
Incredibly, the Habs and Pens were held to just two shots apiece in overtime, despite Mike Johnston’s men enjoying two full minutes of four-on-three.
“That was huge. With Kessel, Crosby, Malkin and Letang all floating around out there, they’re capable of doing some crazy things. Hats off to the boys for really shutting them down,” added the 6-foot-2, 197-pounder. “It was a fun, exciting game, and we’ll just take the point.”
In the meantime, Wednesday’s experience has already left the studious goaltender thinking of how he’ll add a first shootout win to his increasingly memorable 2015-16 resumé.
“You’ve just got to come out, make yourself big, and try to stay as patient as possible,” prescribed the Princeton grad. “They had some pretty fast hands tonight and I was a little behind on both shots, but you also don’t want to bite early.”
If the past is any indication, chances are next time, he won’t.
- Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
Game Highlights: Canadiens vs Penguins