Before we start, let's get one thing straight: the Montreal Canadiens deserved to lose this game. They were outplayed massively by the Pittsburgh Penguins for the majority of the game as the Penguins' top 2 lines cycled the puck through the Habs depleted lineup with ease.
The Habs continued to be opportunistic as Erik Cole broke in, shot the puck of Marc-Andre Fleury's pads and right to David Desharnais. Desharnais was covered by a Penguins defender, but had the patience and presence of mind to find Max Pacioretty in the slot, who roofed one past Fleury to give Montreal a lead.
The Habs would build on that lead when Cole finished off a brilliant play by Pacioretty and P.K. Subban. The initial shot hit the crossbar, but it bounced off of Fleury's backside and in.
Perhaps it was score effects, but the Penguins dominated the second period to a ridiculous degree. Carey Price was fantastic as the shots were 16-5 and the possession was possibly even worse for the Habs. Pascal Dupuis took advantage of the pressure with a smart play and ripped a shot into the net to bring the Penguins within one.
Jordan Staal tied the game with under 5 minutes left on an odd play where he looked covered but Yannick Weber played him like it was a 2-on-1, which it wasn't. Staal made a good move on Price and put it in short side.
Unfortunately, Pacioretty laid a borderline hit on Kris Letang towards the end of the 3rd period. Letang had the puck, but it looked like the principle point of contact was the head. Letang went down in a heap and was bleeding from his face, presumably from his visor cutting him.
Pacioretty apologized to Letang after the game, saying:
"I felt terrible that he got hurt & I'm thankful that he came back. I'm sorry for what happened. I hope he's okay."
Letang, class act that he is, pointed this out after the game and said he appreciated it. We all hope that Letang actually is okay and will continue to play at a high level. Expect Pacioretty to have a call with Brendan Shanahan tomorrow, and judging by his decisions so far Pacioretty will likely get 1-2 games.
Confusing however, is the Penguins' decision to put Letang back on the ice in overtime. You would think that franchise had learned the danger of such a situation with Crosby missing nearly a year due to stupidity on their own part. The quiet room rule continues to be ignored in the NHL. it's a mockery of the health and safety rules the Penguins franchise pretends they support.
Letang performed the common concussed player return feat and "scored" in overtime. Unfortunately for the Habs, the Penguins straddled the line of legality all night. Two brutally obvious illegal goals were called back, and the officials had no interest in calling back a third one, in spite of Carey Price having the puck covered for several second. Carey Price was furious after the game, saying:
"I clearly had my hand over the puck. Clearly. That's the end of it, that's it. He [the ref] didn't say anything to me, he ran off the ice."
Like I said earlier, the Habs earned a loss tonight, but not this way. When you lose a game, it should be to the other team, not the people responsible for enforcing the rules of the game.
A bit of a rant: Officiating has too big of an impact on NHL hockey right now. The game is too fast to fully rely on fallible, and often incompetent individuals. It is about time the NHL embraces the technology it has available to get the calls right. No more of this garbage that is a favourite retort of Ron MacLean about a "human element" to the game. That's an excuse for getting calls wrong when there shouldn't be one. Half the officials in the NHL aren't qualified to do their job.
Not all of that is their fault, the NHL abruptly moving to a 2 ref system necessitated graduating too many people who weren't experienced enough and the fans have been suffering for years. Combine that with too many rules that are loosely defined (roughing for example) as well as zero accountability among officials and you get a league of gutless yes-men who do nothing but parrot the party line. How sad is it that a coach questioning the referees gets fined in the NHL? How does that even make sense?
And don't tell me that taking some responsibility away from the refs is a bad thing, they already have too much responsibility. Make their job easier by being consistent. Rules shouldn't change depending on context of the game or time of year. In many ways the refs are victims here too. It seems like a lot of them have no idea what is and is not a penalty. There shouldn't be pressure on a ref to call the flow of the game, let them do their job and call it properly and consistently from puck drop to the final buzzer.
Three: 1) Kris Letang 2) Erik Cole 3) Carey Price
The winning side of things from PensBurgh
Read up on the Habs' next opponents over at Anaheim Calling