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Aftermath: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

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Through 40 minutes it looked like the Penguins were going to put the Canadiens on the brink of extinction as Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead and had outshot Montreal, 26-9.

The Penguins had showed tremendous character to that point, erasing a Montreal goal 2:26 into the game by scoring twice within the next 2:34 minutes on tallies by Maxime Talbot and Chris Kunitz to open the 2-1 lead.

Not only did the Penguins carry the play and have the lead after two periods, they had all but sucked the life out of both the Canadiens and the Bell Centre crowd – so it seemed.

With their season perhaps hanging in the balance the Canadiens came out like gangbusters in the final period, turning their 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead by the 3:40 mark on goals by Maxime Lapierre and Brian Gionta – the latter a fluke bounce off a Penguin in the slot. Jaroslav Halak did the rest from there, stopping all nine Pittsburgh shots, including an Evgeni Malkin breakaway late in the period.

The series now comes down to a best-of-three scenario, but the Penguins will hold the home-ice advantage with two of those contests at Mellon Arena, beginning with Game 5 on Saturday night. If the Penguins take care of business, they will still be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third consecutive season despite a heartbreaking finish on Thursday.
MONTREAL -- Cinderella has not lost the glass slipper yet.

The Montreal Canadiens, the surprise sensation of these Stanley Cup Playoffs, pulled off another miracle on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, rallying from a one-goal deficit in the third period to take a 3-2 victory from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of this best-of-7 Eastern Conference Semifinal.

Maxime Talbot evened the score, 1-1, for the Penguins 3:27 into the opening period
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: First-Period Answer
Pittsburgh did not get off to the start they desired when they allowed the Canadiens to get the opening goal on what appeared to be a harmless shot just 2:34 into the game. Instead of allowing that tally to bury them, the Penguins showed their mettle by scoring twice within the next 2:34 minutes to quickly regain the momentum and quiet the Bell Centre crowd.

What Could Have Gone Better: Beginning of the Third Period
The first and last three minutes of a period are crucial, especially at playoff time. Montreal used two goals within the first 3:40 minutes of the final period to turn what was a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead into a 3-2 Montreal advantage. Not only did the slow start to the third period cost the Penguins the lead, it revived the crowd and made them a factor the rest of the way as Pittsburgh tried to come back.
Maxime Talbot continues to build upon his reputation as a clutch postseason performer. Talbot picked up his second goal of the playoffs 3:27 into the first period when he caught up to a loose puck at center red, walked in alone on Jaroslav Halak and tucked a shot past the Canadiens netminder to even the score just 53 seconds after Tom Pyatt had opened the scoring for Montreal.

In addition to his goal, which gives him six points (2G-4A) in 10 games this postseason, Talbot continued to play with a vengeance in the offensive zone, winning puck battles behind the net and along the boards as his unit with Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko was the Penguins’ best all night. Talbot finished with a goal, three shots and two hits in 15:02 minutes of ice time.
Barely two and a half minutes into the game Montreal’s Tom Pyatt skated the puck down the left boards into the Penguins zone and fired a shot from the outer perimeter of the circle which eluded Marc-Andre Fleury to open the scoring. Montreal 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Pittsburgh answered quickly as Maxime Talbot won the race to a loose puck at center ice, walked in all alone on Jaroslav Halak and tucked a shot into the cage to answer Pyatt’s tally just 53 seconds later. Pittsburgh 1, Montreal 1.

The Penguins took their only lead of the evening on a power play at 5:18 of the first period. Sidney Crosby centered a pass from below the goal line to Chris Kunitz and the puck went off the stick and both skates of Kunitz before slowly sliding over the goal line before Halak could swat it away. They reviewed the play at the war room in Toronto but the call on the ice was upheld. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 1.

Maxime Lapierre drew the Canadiens even 2:07 into the third period when he picked up a rebound to the left of Fleury, skated behind the net and then tucked a shot in the far post before Fleury could come across from left to right. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 2.

Montreal’s game-winning goal came off of an unfortunate fluke bounce. Brian Gionta was lugging the biscuit down the right seam when his centering pass hit off Kris Letang in the slot and jumped behind Fleury. Montreal 3, Pittsburgh 2.
The Penguins received good news before the game even started when center Jordan Staal returned to the lineup for the first time since leaving Game 1 with a lacerated tendon in his foot. Staal skated on his own briefly on Tuesday and then spent the past two days practicing with his teammates before pronouncing himself ready to go. Staal was very effective all evening, picking up two shots, one hit and winning five of eight faceoffs (63 percent) in 13:24 minutes of ice time.

Pittsburgh played is second straight contest without the services of forward Bill Guerin, who continues to be out with an undisclosed injury. Guerin said following the morning skate on Thursday that he hopes to return to action for Game 5 on Saturday night at Mellon Arena. The Penguins also played without winger Mike Rupp, who sat out due to an undisclosed, non-injury situation.
> Scoring Summary:
MON, T. Pyatt (1), 2:34 1st period: Canadiens 1, Penguins 0
PIT, M. Talbot (2), 3:27 1st period: Penguins 1, Canadiens 1
PIT, C. Kunitz PP (3), 5:18 1st period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 1
MON, M. Lapierre (2), 2:07 3rd period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 2
MON, B. Gionta (5), 3:40 3rd period: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2

> The series is now basically a best-of-three after the two teams split the first four games. The Penguins will look to re-establish the home-ice advantage in Game 5 on Saturday night at Mellon Arena.

> The Penguins are now 4-1 on the road in the postseason. Pittsburgh’s last loss on the road in the postseason prior to Thursday was Game 5 against Detroit in last year’s Stanley Cup Final. 

> Since the beginning of the 2005-06 season the Penguins have posted a 7-4-1 record at the Bell Centre.

> The Penguins are 22-24 all-time in Game 4s, including a 13-13 mark on the road.

> Head coach Dan Bylsma remains one victory shy of picking up his 23rd career postseason victory, which would place him alongside Hall of Famer Scottie Bowman atop the team’s all-time wins list.

> Pittsburgh has an all-time record of 19-18 in Game 5, with an impressive 12-6 mark at Mellon Arena.

> Sidney Crosby extended his NHL postseason lead in points (17) and assists (12) when he helped set up Chris Kunitz’s power-play tally in the first period. Crosby now has three helpers through four games against the Canadiens.

> Chris Kunitz continues to provide consistent scoring for the Penguins. His third goal of the playoffs on Thursday gives him points in seven of 10 postseason games for a total of nine (3G-6A).

> Alex Goligoski’s assist on Kunitz’s goal gives him a team-high four points (1G-3A) in the series. Overall, Goligoski has seven points (2G-5A) in 10 games.
1. J. Halak
2. J. Gorges
3. M. Talbot
“I don’t think he missed a step. I think
he looked pretty good.”

- Head coach Dan Bylsma on Jordan Staal

Author: Jason Seidling

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