Stanley Cup Qualifiers: Game 3
How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NBCSN
In the Penguins region: ATTSN Pittsburgh
Streaming: Sportsnet Now
The Canadiens weren’t able to carry the play they’d settled into for much of Game 1 into the second match of the Stanley Cup Qualifier on Monday night. After going blow-for-blow with Pittsburgh in the final 63 minutes of the first game, they took a pummeling for the opening 40 minutes two nights ago.
They also didn’t get the message that they needed to do a better job of staying out of the penalty box. It was Joel Armia’s turn to show uncharacteristic indiscipline, with some untimely interference plays that had him in the box three times. It was only by the grace of Carey Price that the Habs survived a relentless power play from the Penguins, turning aside all 14 shots faced in the five opportunities.
Price was good in every situation on Monday, beaten only on two point-blank chances from odd-man rushes, first by Sidney Crosby in the first period, then Jason Zucker on a two-on-one in the third. Those goals were enough offence to give the Penguins the win and even the best-of-five series at one game apiece. Now, the first team to get to two wins over the remainder of the qualifiers will be the one to move on.
Tale of the Tape
|2.00||Goals per game||2.50|
|2.50||Goals against per game||2.00|
There is some good news from Montreal’s latest performance. The third-period goal that ended up being the game-winner was actually scored against the run of play, as Montreal was all over its opponent in the final frame. Shots were 14-9 in Montreal’s favour in the final 20 minutes, with four high-danger chances in the period, one of which was whipped home by Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Now with two goals to lead all Canadiens players, it’s not only the offence that’s been impressive for the Finnish sophomore. It can be argued that Kotkaniemi has been Montreal’s top player in this post-season so far, which is quite incredible considering where his game was in the middle of the regular season. He’s been one of the few players able to work his way through the neutral zone, and has an incredible 84.2% expected-goals-for percentage as a result.
To get themselves re-established in the series, Claude Julien would be wise to use his youngest forward more — Kotkaniemi only played 10 minutes in Game 2 with all the time spent on the penalty kill — and perhaps that is one of the changes the coach has in mind for tomorrow’s game. That line, with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen, has been a good one for Montreal, and could have more to offer in increased minutes.
The Penguins really took advantage of some weaker combinations on Monday, essentially alternating Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to shake the tight checking of Montreal’s top line; a luxury they had with the last change, and a necessity with an 0-1 deficit in the series. That won’t be so easy to do tonight when Julien puts his players on the ice last.
One player the team needs to do more — or maybe less — is Jonathan Drouin. He is the Canadiens’ biggest x-factor, with the ability to create an important goal to tip the balance in a tight game, but hasn’t been very threatening through two games so far. He only has one shot on goal, and his speed and skill haven’t been featured very often. His most notable plays to this point have been failed clears from his own end, often trying to stickhandle past a defenceman at the blue line and only extending his team’s stay in its own end when that doesn’t work. He has (or had) two good linemates to work with, and simply needs to believe in their skill levels as much as he does his own.
Perhaps with last change, Julien can finally get a handle on the Crosby matchup. Outside of his trio of penalties in Game 1, Phillip Danault has had a good series from a possession perspective. His most common opponents have been Pittsburgh’s top line and main defence pairing, and so far he’s held things mostly even despite the -1 rating. He’ll be getting a tap from the boss whenever Crosby jumps over the boards, and that will help neutralize that section of Pittsburgh’s lineup.
The rest is up to the other forwards on the team to keep penalties to a minimum and put pressure on in the attacking end, with Kotkaniemi and Drouin two of the top candidates to make that happen.