Game 1 in any series is a learning experience. Here's a look at some of the things we learned in Pittsburgh's 6-3 series-opening win over the Montreal Canadiens
in their Eastern Conference Semifinal.
- Penalty-killing success doesn't necessarily carry over from series to series. Montreal beat Washington largely by killing 32 of 33 Caps' power plays -- the Canadiens actually allowed more shorthanded goals (2) than power-play goals (1). Whatever the Penguins did in preparing for Montreal's penalty-killing strategy worked perfectly -- the Penguins were 4-for-4 and seemingly moved the puck at will.
How rare is a 4-for-4 showing on the power play? It happened once all season -- San Jose did it against Los Angeles five days into the season. Pittsburgh tied a franchise playoff record by scoring four times with the extra man, matching a mark set against Washington in 1992.
- Jaroslav Halak is human after all. He allowed more goals (5) on 20 shots before being pulled in the third period than he did (3) on 134 shots in the final three games against Washington. Halak seemed to have trouble tracking the puck at times and was nowhere near as sharp as the goaltender who stole three games against Washington. This was the second time Halak has been pulled against the Penguins this season -- and it presents Montreal coach Jacques Martin with the question of who to start on Sunday -- Halak or Carey Price?
- Sidney Crosby doesn't have to score goals to affect the game. Crosby set up Kris Letang's goal early in the second period by outbattling a defender in the Montreal zone and finding his defenseman in the high slot, then threw a seeing-eye pass that Alex Goligoski dunked for Pittsburgh's fifth goal. Crosby also won 11 of 21 faceoffs and was credited with three hits.
- Pittsburgh caused problems for Montreal because the Penguins were superb below the circles and behind the net -- a big change from the series against Washington, where the Caps seemed intent on trying to score off the rush. The Habs weren't helped by losing their best defenseman, Andrei Markov, with a lower-body injury in the first period. Martin will have to figure out how to dole out the 26-plus minutes Markov usually plays if he can't go in Game 2.
- Pittsburgh's defensemen are an offensive threat. Sergei Gonchar, Letang and Goligoski all scored power-play goals -- the first time since 1986 that a team has had three defenseman score goals.
- Craig Adams saves his best for the playoffs. Adams hasn't scored in his last 91 regular-season games, but his second of this year's playoffs, a dunk of Pascal Dupuis' brilliant feed from the left circle with 1:24 remaining in the second period, turned out to be the winner. Adams has five playoff goals in the last two springs with Pittsburgh. Adams could also get more time if Jordan Staal, who left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and was on crutches afterward, can't play Sunday.
- It's not easy to turn your attention to a new opponent in just two days after a game like Montreal's emotional Game 7 victory over Washington on Wednesday. Both teams that won Game 7 in the opening round lost the opener of their next series to a better-rested opponent, and (thanks to CBC) we note that Game 7 winners are now 49-67 in Game 1 of the subsequent series.
- The epidemic of bench penalties for too many men on the ice continued. Pittsburgh scored its third goal after the Canadiens were called for a bench minor for too many men early in the second period. It was the 22nd such call in 51 playoff games this season -- five more than were called in 87 games last spring.