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Canadiens vs Penguins recap: Two-point effort gets only one

The Habs put forth a solid effort, but would ultimately fall in a shootout.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With Carey Price out for yet another week, the Montreal Canadiens have been riding the hot hand of Mike Condon, and will continue to for now. Condon entered Wednesday night's game undefeated in regulation, and that is how he would leave, as this game would get all the way through the 3-on-3 overtime to a shootout.


Image Credit: HockeyStats.ca

It took all of 13 seconds for Pascal Dupuis, playing his first game back from injury, to open the scoring for the Penguins. Dupuis drove to the net, was largely forgotten in coverage, and redirected a perfect pass by Sidney Crosby to put his side up 1-0.

While discussions of increasing net size to create more goals have been floating around lately, this game sure started with its share of scoring. Before reaching the five-minute mark of the period, the resurgent Montreal power play would respond, as Andrei Markov took the D-to-D feed from P.K. Subban, and scorched one home to tie the game.

If they handed out the three stars of the game during the first period, it would have gone without saying that Mike Condon would have been number one. He made several ridiculous saves, and while the shots were about even, one could argue that Pittsburgh was getting the better scoring chances. Condon, however, was equal to the task.

Unfortunately, the firepower of the Penguins would eventually get to him again. Phil Kessel continued his ongoing hot streak, firing a hard shot through traffic that Condon had little chance of stopping. It would be tough to fault Condon on the goal, as very little pressure was put on the attacking forwards.

Brendan Gallagher has been quietly making his case for team Canada so far this year, and again showed what he's capable of last night. Thanks to a lucky bounce, he was able to get in on a 2-on-1 with Tomas Plekanec, and finished it off himself with a rocket to tie the game yet again.

The fourth line looked very good throughout most of the game to this point, and they would be rewarded for their efforts in the second. Brian Flynn streaked in on the right side, and was able to sneak a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, one that the latter should likely have stopped.

The teams traded chances throughout most of the third with nothing much ado, until Patric Hornqvist put an end to all of that. He unleashed a lethal wrist shot on a rush, that appeared to take a deflection off the leg of Jeff Petry, and once again the two teams found themselves even at three goals apiece.

A nail-biting 3-on-3 overtime, featuring a two-minute 4-on-3 power play for the Penguins, was not enough to end the game, and so it went to the shootout. Two Pittsburgh goals, and two Marc-Andre Fleury saves later, and the Penguins went home with two points.

Thoughts

  • This game illustrates perfectly why you don't sit on leads in the third period. In the second, Montreal outshot the Penguins by a rate of 13-1, and out-attempted them 24-7. That was how they gained the lead in the first place, yet they took their foot off the gas in the third. A replica of the second, in the third, would have all but guaranteed a regulation win.
  • The fourth line had a very respectable outing, with all three of Paul Byron, Torrey Mitchell, and Bryan Flynn clicking in at or over 50% of even strength shot attempts while they were on the ice. Flynn's goal may have been a tad weak, but it was a deserved reward for their work on the night.
  • That being said, the first line is still amazing. Max Pacioretty, Plekanec, and Gallagher controlled well over 60% of even strength shot attempts as a unit, and did so with not-so-cushy deployment, against some of Pittsburgh's top players. That trio is beyond good, and they're a treat to watch.
  • Markov and Subban have also been beyond good, and they continued that last night. Much like the top forward line, the top defensive duo controlled over 60% of even strength shot attempts, and they've quietly risen to be tied in second for scoring among NHL defensemen. They are also quite the treat to watch.
  • Mike Condon, yet again, was fantastic. Yes, he let in three goals, but he also made some spectacular saves along the way. He is yet-to-be beaten in regulation, and he is doing some absolutely stellar work in Carey Price's stead.
  • Now that this team seems to have a legitimate power play, you have to wonder how far they can go. I'll stop short of calling them favourites due to it, but it was clearly the one thing lacking in the last two playoff runs they had. Hopefully it keeps up, because right now, it is massively encouraging.
All things considered, it is very hard to be upset about an effort like last night's. They out-attempted and outshot one of the more high-powered offenses in the league; they just didn't find a way to pull off the win.

Pittsburgh surely led in the scoring chance department, but they got the goaltending they needed to mitigate that problem. At the very least, they left Pittsburgh with a point, and didn't fall apart in the third.

The Habs will now get another break, this time for two days, before they face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday at the Bell Centre.