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Penguins try to put away pesky Canadiens in Game 7

by John Kreiser /


(Best-of-7 series tied 3-3)

Big story: Will the clock strike midnight for the Cinderella Canadiens? Or will the Penguins' quest for back-to-back Stanley Cups meet an early end? One of these two things is certain to happen when the teams face off in what could be the final game ever played at Mellon Arena. The Canadiens pushed the series to the limit with a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night -- they've won all the even-numbered games after losing all the odd-numbered contests.

Team Scope:

Canadiens -- Thanks to the play of Jaroslav Halak, the eighth-seeded Canadiens refuse to go away. Halak continued his brilliant postseason by outplaying Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 6, stopping 34 shots as the Canadiens won despite being outshot 37-25.

It was just another win for a team that was supposed to be playing golf by now.

"No one really expected us to be here in the first place," defenseman Ryan O'Byrne said. "You can't play tentative. You have to play loose and enjoy the moment. There're a lot of guys in this room with a lot of pride, and we're not ready to go home ready."

Penguins -- This is a game the Penguins had no interest in having to play -- they've never trailed in the series and have dominated play for the large majority of the six games. But they're not unfamiliar with playing in Game 7s -- not after beating both Washington and Detroit on the road last spring on the way to the Cup.

"I think you just try to make sure you are at your best in a Game 7," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who finally scored his first goal of the series in Game 6. "That's all you can do because there are so many things that can happen. It's one game, so you try to go out there and play your best, just like everyone else and see where that brings you, see what the result is. You have to leave it all out there to give yourself the best chance."

Who's hot -- Mike Cammalleri had two of the Canadiens' goals on Monday and has scored six of Montreal's 14 goals in the series. He leads all players in this year's playoffs with 11 goals. … Halak has a .932 save percentage, the best among all goaltenders still playing this spring.

Injury report -- The Canadiens haven't had their best defenseman, Andrei Markov, since he went down with a knee injury early in Game 1. Their biggest defenseman, Hal Gill, sat out Game 6 with a skate cut and is expected to be a game-time decision on Wednesday. The Penguins are as healthy as can be expected a month into the postseason.

Stat pack -- Monday's win marked the sixth time in franchise history the Canadiens have forced a Game 7 by winning the sixth game at home. They are trying to become the first No. 8 seed to make the conference finals since the 2005-06 Oilers accomplished the feat. … Pittsburgh is trying to become the first team to make the conference finals in three consecutive years since the Boston Bruins from 1990-92. The Penguins are 2-4 at home in Game 7s.

Puck drop -- Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is hoping Mellon Arena doesn't close the way it opened -- with a Montreal victory. The Penguins began life in the NHL on Oct. 11, 1967, with a 2-1 home loss to the Canadiens at the then-Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

"We know we are in a battle," Bylsma said. "We care deeply, and we want to win desperately. ... They have certain emotions, and we have them. We both know this could be our last game. This could be the last game at Mellon."

The Penguins are 2-4 there in Game 7s, beating Washington twice but losing to the Islanders (twice), Panthers and Flyers. They are 3-3 in home playoff games this spring, but they won Game 7s at Washington and Detroit last season. Until they beat the Red Wings, no team had won a finals Game 7 on the road since 1971.

"Everyone in the building at Mellon will understand what's at stake," Bylsma said. "You're either moving on or you're going home, and I think that's one of the great challenges of playoff hockey."


AP freelance writer Sean Farrell in Montreal contributed to this report.

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