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Aftermath: Penguins 2, Canadiens 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


The Penguins put together their strongest 60-minute performance of the postseason against Montreal in Game 5. Pittsburgh perfectly executed in all facets of its game, particularly its work in the defensive zone, to pull out a crucial 2-1 win in a typical playoff grind-out game.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 of 33 shots, and was a fortress between the pipes for the Penguins. He made a strong save in the first two minutes on a point-blank shot by Mike Cammalleri. Fleury was also great at covering low shots during three penalty kill situations.

Pittsburgh’s defensemen – Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar – secured the two goals the team needed to win the game, and the entire team’s commitment to shutting down the Canadiens led to the monumental win.

The Penguins head back to Montreal for Game 6 with a chance to end this series on the road - something the team is comfortable doing considering they have clinched their last five postseason series in unfriendly environments.
( – The Pittsburgh Penguins did not want to take the chance that Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Montreal on Saturday night could be the last NHL contest ever played at Mellon Arena.

So they got back to basics to solve Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak and earn a 2-1 victory – on the strength of goals by defenseman Kris Letang and Sergei Gonchar and a 32-save effort by Marc-Andre Fleury -- that once again puts the Canadiens on the brink of elimination, a situation from which they have wiggled free of on three separate occasions.

Marc-Andre Fleury's makes one of his 32 saves on a penalty kill with some assist from Maxime Talbot
(photo by Getty)
What Went Well: Intangibles
Coaches love to talk about the intangibles and fundamentals that it takes to win hockey games. It’s the things that don’t end up on a score sheet but make the difference between contenders and champions. Pittsburgh executed the little things perfectly and the result was a victory. They blocked shots, threw checks, blocked passes in the crease area, boxed out, cleared second-chance opportunities, worked the puck down low, utilized its point players and converted its scoring chances.

What Could Have Gone Better: Shutout
Poor Marc-Andre Fleury lost his shutout with 29.7 seven seconds remaining in the contest. However, the Penguins goaltender can hold his head high after stopping 32 of 33 shots and picking up a pivotal victory in the semifinal series.
Kris Letang was considerably upset that the game-winning goal for Montreal in Game 4 went off his skate. Although Letang cannot be blamed for the incident, he made up for the blemish with a spectacular performance on the ice in Game 5.

Letang gave the Penguins the all-important first goal with a power-play tally late in the first period. But his play in the defensive end was even more impressive. On three occasions Letang laid out his body to block attempted centering passes by Montreal and used his swift skating and great body position to block out Canadiens players on rebound opportunities.
The Penguins scored the critical first goal with a power-play tally late in the opening frame. Kris Letang collected the puck in the high slot. He snapped a shot over the blocker of Jaroslav Halak and into the net. Pittsburgh 1, Montreal 0.

The Penguins added to their lead halfway through the second period with a simple fundamental hockey play. The team worked the puck low. As the Canadiens collapsed to their net, space opened at the top of the zone. Mark Letestu, who picked up his first career playoff point with an assist, pushed the puck to the point. Brooks Orpik moved it to the far point and Sergei Gonchar one-timed a shot into the top far corner. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 0.

The Canadiens broke Pittsburgh’s shutout bid with a power-play goal just 29.7 seconds away from the final whistle. Brian Gionta made a centering pass and Mike Cammalleri had a shot from above the crease. It appeared that Marc-Andre Fleury had the puck covered, but on Cammalleri’s second whack the rubber squirted free and across the goal line. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 1.
The Penguins best line in their Game 5 win could arguably have been their fourth unit of Mike Rupp, Mark Letestu and Craig Adams. Though they were only on the ice for eight minutes at even strength, the trio had a huge impact on the game. They controlled zone possession time, skated hard, played physical and dominated the play. The groups effort led to Sergei Gonchar’s game-winning goal in the second period.

The Penguins made a few lineup changes in Game 5. Forwards Bill Guerin and Rupp returned from injuries. Guerin missed the past two games while Rupp was out of the last contest. To make room Pittsburgh scratched Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
> Scoring Summary:
PIT, K.Letang PP (4), 18:18 1st period: Penguins 1, Canadiens 0
PIT, S.Gonchar (2), 9:50 2nd period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 0
MON, M.Cammalleri PP (9), 19:29 3rd period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 1

> Following Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory in Game 5, the Penguins now lead the semifinal series 3-2. The series heads north of the border to Montreal for Game 6 where Pittsburgh can close out the series and become the first Eastern Conference team to play in the conference final for three straight seasons since the Boston Bruins (1990-92).

> Head coach Dan Bylsma won his 23rd postseason game for Pittsburgh, tying him with Scottie Bowman for first place on the team’s all-time playoff list. With another win Bylsma would surpass Bowman and become the first Penguins head coach to win six playoff series in his career.

> Kris Letang scored his fourth goal of the postseason with a power-play tally. Letang’s four goals tie his single-postseason career high set last season.

> Sergei Gonchar tallied two points in the game (1G-1A), including the game-winning goal.

> Mark Letestu recorded his first career NHL postseason point with an assist.
1. M.Fleury
2. S.Gonchar
3. K.Letang
“On both goals we scored the goalie didn't have a chance to stop the puck. That's a result of traffic.
We have to stick to that.”
- Sergei Gonchar

Author: Sam Kasan

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