Losing Jeff Petry to injury for the second time this season was definitely a blow to those hopes. Though I have faith in Greg Pateryn, who subbed in and played next to Nathan Beaulieu, Petry is a top-4 D-man, and hopefully he won't be out long.
The loss of a top defender came at a poor time, as Sidney Crosby, whom you probably heard very little about over the last few days, has refound his game..
The Habs had another slow start, accumulating a whopping two shots on goal within the first eight-and-a-half minutes of the period. Alexei Emelin took an early hooking penalty after he lost track of Crosby (a matchup that occurred fairly often in the game), sending the Penguins to the power play. Phil Kessel had two great chances to put his team on the board while up a man, but fanned on a shot with a wide-open net and the game remained scoreless.
Mike Condon turned aside all the pucks that did get on goal, facing 12 shots in the first, including two huge ones near the end of the opening 20.
The second period really wasn't much better for the Canadiens. Torrey Mitchell took a high-sticking penalty about halfway into the period. This time, the Canadiens wouldn't escape unscathed, as Kessel centred the puck in front of the net and Patric Hornqvist put the Penguins up 1-0.
Just a few minutes later, however, P.K. Subban ripped a shot from the point that beat Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Subban's first goal since October 24th. The crowd erupted in a 'P.K.' chant as the game was reset with a 1-1 score.
The Penguins didn't let that slow them down, however, as Pateryn let Bryan Rust break into the zone and get one by Condon, restoring Pittsburgh's lead, heading into the dressing room up 2-1 with a 24-17 shot advantage.
The Habs put together a better third period, possession-wise, out-attempting the Pens 29-15, with 17 shots getting to the net.
Condon, clearly the Habs' best player on the night, was called on to make an awe-inspiring glove save on one of Pittsburgh's eight third-period shots, after Crosby had taken up residence just to the left of the net.
The Canadiens goalie headed to the bench with just under two minutes left in the period, facing a deficit despite his stellar play. With 20 seconds left, Kris Letang took a cross-checking penalty in front of the Pittsburgh net on Brendan Gallagher to give the Habs a two-skater advantage. On the short power play, a terrible giveaway by Andrei Markov allowed Eric Fehr to break away in the opposite direction, and he managed to get the short-handed empty netter to seal the Pens' 3-1 win.
Though I am tired of the 'Montreal is nothing without Carey Price' narrative, the issues are plain to see. Condon has been playing well, but with the lack of offensive support and the multitude of defensive breakdowns we have been witness to, the team isn't really proving otherwise.
P.K. Subban's comments after the game say it all.
Argue if you want, but at what point does upper management step in and make some real changes? Something has to give.