The Bell Centre is famous for being a tough place to play thanks to the electric atmosphere produced by Montreal’s hockey-crazed fans. And on Tuesday, the Penguins and the Canadiens played a fast-paced, spirited and entertaining contest fitting of the venue.
It took eight rounds of a shootout to decide the winner, and in the end it was the desperate Habs – scratching and clawing to keep themselves remotely within the playoff picture – who took the two points. But although there are certainly aspects of their play that they weren't pleased with, at least the Penguins rallied twice and came away with one.
They were especially disappointed they couldn’t win it for Marc-Andre Fleury
, who came up with several dazzling saves in what was a goalie duel at many points of the night between him and Carey Price, then later in the shootout.
“It’s a good point, but there’s just areas of our game that we need to clean up,” forward James Neal
said. “‘Flower’ was great again. Huge saves at the right times. It’s tough when you don’t pull one out in the shootout for him, because he made some great saves.”
The Penguins have now finished with an unbeaten record (3-0-1) against the Canadiens for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
Not only did they close out that series, but they also concluded their four-game road trip – and are ready to return to Pittsburgh and get right back to business.
“It was a long road trip. Glad we get to go home after this one tonight,” forward Pascal Dupuis
said. “But would have loved to get two points, obviously.”
On Tuesday, Fleury continued to prove he has a short memory when it comes to being pulled from games.
After being replaced by Brent Johnson
in the second period of Sunday’s 5-2 loss to New Jersey, Fleury got the nod between the pipes in his hometown Montreal in front of friends and family – and gave them and the rest of the 21,273 in attendance quite a show.
He produced 25 saves to get the Penguins to overtime and earn them a point, made three more in the extra session and then did his best to give his teammates a chance to win in the shootout by stopping five of eight shooters.
“Basically, Flower has been saving us all year,” Dupuis said.
Fleury has now compiled a 9-1-2 record in his next start after being pulled from a game dating back to the 2009-10 season.
is now officially having the best season of his NHL career.
The power forward scored a big goal nearly halfway through the third period to tie the game at 2-2 and eventually force overtime.
The tally was Neal’s 28th of the season, surpassing the personal best the 24-year-old winger established in the 2009-10 season with Dallas. He now has points in nine of his last 12 games for a total of seven goals and seven assists.
The goal was a beauty, as he received a wraparound pass from Evgeni Malkin
while planted in front of the net – and almost instantaneously sniped a scorcher past Price for the score.
However, Neal credited Malkin with the work he did to set the play up by carrying into the zone while being swarmed by a sea of red jerseys and outworking Hal Gill on the boards to make the pass.
“It’s a typical play by Geno, never giving up on a puck,” Neal said. “He just outbattled a guy and manages to make a little pass to me. Great effort by him.”
Malkin had a highlight-reel goal during the shootout, where he pulled out a nasty spin-o-rama on Price and tucked the puck into the open net. He also finished 11-3 (79 percent) in the faceoff dot.
The Canadiens entered Tuesday’s game with the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill, and they produced a number of shorthanded chances on three Penguins power plays.
However, it would be the Penguins that would convert a shorthanded goal when Joe Vitale
swept a shot to the cage that deflected off a crashing Dupuis’ skate and past a surprised Price to tie the game at 1-1.
“Just Joey V. throwing a puck at the net there. Kinda stopping there, it hit my skate and went in,” Dupuis said. “It’s one of those that right now, I’ll take. Got us back in the game.”
Montreal would score shortly after to go up 2-1, but Neal’s tally would even the score – and Dupuis credited the team with continuing to battle despite falling behind.
“We did come back and tie it up, had some chances to win in overtime,” he said. “We got some chances in the shootout. Hit the post there, too, (which would have) won it but it doesn’t go in. They come back and they win. It’s unfortunate.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo