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Canadiens vs. Penguins: Game preview, start time, Tale of the Tape, and how to watch

The Canadiens play an opponent struggling just as much as they are.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

How to watch

Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the Penguins region: ATTSN-Pittsburgh
Streaming: ESPN+, NHL Live, RDS Direct, TSN Direct

Two goals and a loss. It’s the story of November for the Montreal Canadiens (slightly better than the one-goal version in the preceding month). The latest game to fit that description came on Tuesday night, and also applied to the other two games on their road trip, from which they took just a single point in an overtime loss.

Cayden Primeau tried his best to make two goals stand up for the win over the New York Rangers in his season debut, but the defencemen in front of him seemed disinterested in helping their goalie out with basic things like body positioning and puck management. He was forced to make plenty of quality saves on dangerous chances, keeping his team within striking distance. It’s hard to win games when both the defence and offence don’t come together, so it was a minor miracle the game finished as close as it did.

The team can’t play any worse than it did on Tuesday, so Dominique Ducharme has taken the opportunity to get Mattias Norlinder into the lineup tonight for his first NHL game, hoping that change can spark the club to a bit of life. It will probably be a light deployment for him, but the club has nothing to lose, so he should have free rein to go on the attack and show off his offensive skills.

Tale of the Tape

Canadiens Statistics Penguins
Canadiens Statistics Penguins
4-12-2 Record 5-6-4
51.7% (10th) Scoring-chances-for % 51.2% (15th)
2.11 (31st) Goals per game 2.80 (19th)
3.39 (28th) Goals against per game 3.20 (26th)
13.8% (29th) PP% 10.0% (32nd)
72.1% (29th) PK% 87.8% (2nd)
1-1-1 H2H Record (19-20) 2-1-0

He’ll have a good opponent for that at least, as the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t much better than Montreal has been this season, also in danger of falling out of the playoff race after just over a month of the season. Like the Canadiens, they’ve lost three games in a row, and have only two wins since they blew out the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 23.

The Penguins have often been managing to score one goal less than the opposition in their last 10 games. Whether that’s a 5-4 shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild or a 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, they’re playing just under the form of their opponent. It might be a difficult task to do that again tonight if Montreal plays the way they did last time out, but this is one of the more winnable games the Habs have had on their schedule this season.

A major culprit in Pittsburgh’s inability to outscore opponents is a horrendous power play. There aren’t many teams that rank below Montreal in that situation, but Pittsburgh is one of the three, and they sit dead last with a 10.0% efficiency. With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup until recently with an injury and then contracting COVID-19, no player was able to lead the man advantage. Their team lead for power-play points a fifth of the way through the season is two. Even Montreal has seven players with at least that many.

Of course, the last time Montreal faced a team with a woeful conversion rate, they gave the Vegas Golden Knights their first two power-play goals of the season....

At least the Penguins are keeping their special-teams goal differential even with the second-best penalty kill in the league, only allowing a goal every eight times short-handed. That’s something to build their game around to get on track now that their captain is back in the fold.

If they can translate more of their penalty-kill prowess to five-on-five play and wait for Crosby to get comfortable on offence after his absence, it should be a rather easy turnaround for the Penguins. Montreal’s best bet to be the one to snap a three-game losing skid tonight is to take control of the five-on-five possession, and hope this isn’t the game that Pittsburgh’s power play comes alive.