The score changed but the game remained the same.
That bodes well for the Penguins as this increasingly one-sided Eastern Conference semifinal somehow heads to Montreal tied at one game apiece after a hard-to-figure 3-1 Canadiens’ triumph on Sunday afternoon at Mellon Arena.
In Game 1 the Penguins managed to put five pucks into a net being guarded by a Canadiens goaltender, and could have easily had more.
In Game 2 they likewise buzzed and cycled and controlled tempo and territory, flustering the Canadiens to the extent that even when Montreal had the puck, a smooth, clean breakout was often too much to ask of the Habs.
The shots were 27-15 after two periods and 39-21 for the game in Pittsburgh’s favor.
The near misses were even more one-sided in favor of the Penguins.
“We did a good job of getting zone time and creating things and really getting to our game but it didn’t transpire into goals,” Sidney Crosby
assessed. “We had our chances.”
That they did. Mike Rupp had a chance to bat a puck past Jaroslav Halak from the doorstep but couldn’t quite finish. Evgeni Malkin
was denied on a backhand after chasing down a loose puck following a dump into the Montreal end. Maxime Talbot was unable to collect a pass from Sidney Crosby
that would have sent Talbot in alone on a shorthanded breakaway.
That all occurred in the first period.
In the second Crosby didn’t get to the rebound of a Mark Eaton blast from the slot, Alexei Ponikarovsky was denied on a one-timer and Talbot missed everything on an open wrister from the right circle.
And so it went.
“At the end of the day you have to play the right way and eventually the puck will go in,” Crosby continued. “It was just one of those games where it didn’t want to go in for us.”
The ice stayed tilted on both sides of a power-play goal by the Canadiens Mike Cammalleri that gave Montreal a 2-1 lead at 7:29 of the second - it was the first of what would be a three-shot period for the visitors - as the scrambles in front of
Halak and the pucks bouncing through the crease continually teased the crowd of 17, 132, the Penguins’ 164th consecutive sellout.
“You wouldn’t change a whole lot,” Crosby concluded. “You always analyze, there are always things you can improve on. But as a whole we did a pretty good job of getting to the zone and trying to create things.”
The Habs survived it all, including a string of three consecutive Penguins power plays that commenced at 19:54 of the second and concluded at 10:41 of the third with Montreal’s third kill on the day and of the series.
But in the process the Canadiens became a three-line team, as the threesome of Ben Maxwell, Mathieu Darche and Andre Kostitsyn didn’t touch the ice in the second and third periods. Those three had been scored upon seconds into their first shift of the game after a faceoff at the Montreal blueline quickly turned into an opportunity and ultimately Matt Cooke
’s fourth goal of the postseason and a 1-0 Penguins lead.
The Pens never scored again, as Montreal managed to remain as resilient in one end as it was opportunistic at the other.
“We still can play a little bit better,” Talbot offered.
That doesn’t mean the approach was flawed or some hole in the Pens’ overall game was exposed.
It just means the series is going at least five games.
“We had a lot of zone time, a lot of shots, a lot of quality shots,” Bill Guerin assessed. “It’s nothing to get frustrated about. We don’t have to go and re-invent the wheel.
“We’ll just get back to it.”
Sounds like a plan for Game 3.Mike Prisuta is the sports director for WDVE-FM in Pittsburgh and the sports anchor for “Jim, Randy & the DVE Morning Show.”