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

After a disappointing home opener that was long on effort but short on results (and luck), the Canadiens will look to rebound in their second meeting with the Penguins in three games.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

How to watch

Puck drop: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CITY-TV, TVA, Sportsnet Now
In the Penguins region: AT&T Sportsnet - Pittsburgh
In the US: NHL Network
Elsewhere: NHL Live

Well, the home opener could have gone better.

As expected, given the energy of the crowd, the Habs came out blazing in the first period, earning an early power play and keeping the Los Angeles Kings off the shot board for almost the first four minutes of play. Unfortunately, as the power play was winding down, a Drew Doughty crosscheck directly in the numbers of Max Domi went undetected, allowing the Kings to wrest possession of the puck behind their own goal as Adrian Kempe prepared to leap out of the penalty box. A few passes later, the Kings had their first shot—and their first goal.

As it turns out, despite a valiant effort by the Habs in the second and third periods, that goal was all Los Angeles would need en route to a 3-0 victory. I hope no one picked the Habs to go 81-0-1 in their office pool.

There’s no time for the Habs to dwell on what could have been, as the Pittsburgh Penguins come marching into the Bell Centre for an early-season rematch.

Tale of the Tape

1-0-0H2H Record0-1-0
55.5%Corsi-for pct.48.8%
7Goals for12
7Goals against13

The last time these two teams met, the Penguins were perhaps a little stunned by the pace and aggression of this year’s Canadiens. They surrendered multiple goals off neutral and defensive zone turnovers where they ended up with a 5-1 defeat. This time, the Canadiens should assume that the veteran superstar-laden squad in the visitors dressing room will have amply prepared to make sure that lightning doesn’t strike twice.

Like the Habs, the Penguins have only played one game since their last meeting, a 4-2 victory over the struggling Vegas Golden Knights. An early lead for Vegas courtesy of Tomas Nosek was quickly  erased by a Phil Kessel natural hat trick, and Caleb DeSmith stopped 33 of 35 shots in order to win a battle of de facto back-ups against Malcolm Subban.

Similar to the Kings, who saw Jack Campbell pressed into action by an injury to starter Jonathan Quick, the Canadiens will likely see DeSmith play his second consecutive game this evening while starter Matt Murray is sidelined with a concussion (although Murray is traveling with the team). The Habs will hope that a Campbell-esque performance isn’t in the cards for DeSmith, but they’ll have a key part to play in deciding that.

The Habs will also need to be aware that the Jack Johnson-Olli Maatta defence pairing, victimized for two of the four even-strength goals against during their last meeting, may not be on the ice at the Bell Centre. Johnson was paired with Justin Schultz against Vegas while Maatta was dropped from the lineup altogether in favour of rookie Juuso Riikola. While Riikola largely impressed alongside Jamie Oleksiak in his debut, the Johnson-Schultz pairing may be no better than the Johnson-Maatta one given that they posted team-worst numbers in terms of possession statistics and scoring chances allowed.

For Montreal, a loss reopens the question of potential roster changes. Late in the Kings game, Claude Julien changed up his lines, seeking more offence. Tomas Tatar moved into Jonathan Drouin’s position on the Jesperi Kotkaniemi-Joel Armia line, Drouin formed a trio with Matthew Peca and Brendan Gallagher, and Phillip Danault centered Andrew Shaw and Charles Hudon. Only the Paul Byron-Max Domi-Artturi Lehkonen line was left untouched. Peca, who lost goalscorer Michael Amadio on the Kings’ second tally, may be at risk with Tomas Plekanec on the outside eagerly awaiting his first action of the season.

The Canadiens will be admittedly hard-pressed to repeat their success of a week ago against a more prepared foe eager for some measure of payback. At the same time, the team knows that they have to up their focus and effort levels and rise to the challenge. Canadiens fans will be hoping that lightning does indeed strike twice tonight.

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