Canadiens vs. Penguins game recap: A Fleury of goals
Habs show the Penguins that there’s no place like home.
The Habs know how to do ceremonies, and last night’s home opener was no exception. The crowd was into it, the drums were a nice touch, and the torch went from Jacques Demers to Max Pacioretty before the later joined his teammates grouped around the logo at centre ice.
Once the puck dropped, the Habs wasted absolutely no time getting on the board. Marc-Andre Fleury made a huge save on Alex Galchenyuk, but had no answer for the shot of Pacioretty 23 seconds into the game. The Habs followed that up with a few little hiccups in their own end, but between Montoya and the defencemen, they made it through the first five minutes unscathed.
After a solid opening, the Habs sat back a little, and allowed the Penguins to rack up nine shots to the their four after seven minutes of play.
Pacioretty took a weak penalty for holding just under halfway through the period, and Therrien put Artturi Lehkonen out on the kill against Malkin. Surprisingly, (or perhaps not surprisingly, if you’ve been following along with Patrik’s reports over the last year) he very much got the better of the Penguins, singlehandedly carrying the puck into the offensive zone and forcing Fleury to smother the puck. Such, apparently, is Therrien’s confidence in Lehkonen that he was out twice on the same penalty kill.
After a few good shifts, the Habs then proceeded to ice the puck twice in a row, and then to give up a high quality chance. Fortunately, Montoya continued to be solid, and the game remained 1-0.
Tomas Plekanec, Lehkonen and Alexander Radulov had an excellent shift and a couple of chances with just under five left in the period, followed up with a dangerous shot by Galchenyuk, but they were unable to extend the lead.
Alexei Emelin had a good end of the period, setting up two quality chances, but Fleury was up to the challenge. After a possibly missed call on Lehkonen, Radulov was sent to the box for interference with 1:25 left in the period. Although they finished the first on the kill, they also finished strong in the Penguins zone, with shots 17-13 Penguins, but the score 1-0 for Montreal.
Pittsburgh began the period on the power play, but like so many period-opening power plays, it didn’t amount to anything. The Penguins had some dangerous chances after the teams returned to full strength, and then got yet another power play, as Radulov caught Connor Sheary with an accidental high stick.
Fortunately for the Habs, Nick Bonino got called for playing the puck with his hand off the faceoff, so the game resumed four-on-four. The most exciting event of the resulting special teams time was definitely the demonstration of Paul Byron’s now famous breakaway speed, and Fleury’s stack pad save.
Because of the penalties, the lines got shuffled a little, and Pacioretty set up David Desharnais with an amazing play off the forecheck. Immediately afterwards, Pacioretty and Galchenyuk almost got the Habs another goal.
Taking advantage of their post-goal momentum, the Habs pressed on, forcing Kris Letang to take a holding penalty in his own zone. Their first power play of the game wasn’t perhaps the prettiest they ever had, but there was good movement, and a few good shots on the first wave. However, they still had some issues establishing themselves in the offensive zone.
Habs fans had a moment of concern as Gallagher went down in front of a Shea Weber shot, and then Brian Flynn took a penalty for highsticking, but the Penguins immediately negated it as Malkin took a hooking penalty, and period two came to a close, shots 26-21 for Pittsburgh, but the score 2-0 for the Habs.
The teams started the third period four-on-four as the parade to penalty box continued, but that scenario did not last long, as Beaulieu danced into the zone and was tripped up, giving the Habs the man advantage. The four-on-three began very well, as Weber and the first line got three or four really good chances. The strength went to five-on-three when Eric Fehr boarded Galchenyuk, bur unfortunately, that was quickly wiped out as well when Weber went to the box for tripping. Pacioretty was next up in that spate of infractions, but was forced to the room looking to be in a great deal of pain. When Plekanec got in all alone and left Kris Letang no choice but to take a slashing penalty, the game ultimatrly got down its lowest possible three-versus-three state, and was quite entertaining for those few moments.
As the resulting penalties expired, Galchenyuk set Radulov in motion on an absolute sweetheart of a goal-scorer’s goal, but the Penguins immediately challenged it for goaltender interference with Gallagher in the vicinity of the crease. Miraculously, the goal was not called off, the Penguins lost their timeout, and Radulov’s first goal as a Canadien was allowed to stand. The score was 3-0 Habs, with assists to Galchenyuk and Montoya.
There was double cause for celebration, as Pacioretty returned to the bench immediately after the goal. The adjacent bench wasn’t so fortunate, as Kris Letang left the for the locker room looking to be in some discomfort.
With 6:16 left in the period, the Desharnais line absolutely swarmed Fleury, first Markov, then Byron got really good chances, and then Petry dished the perfect pass to Desharnais, who made no mistake putting away his second of the game.
The Penguins came back with a vengeance, but Montoya was absolutely solid. The remaining minutes were fairly uneventful, Al Montoya picked up his first shut out, and the Habs won their home opener 4-0.
- This was definitely the Habs’ best game of the season. Sometimes teams can come out flat after a big ceremony, but that did not happen at all. They came out flying, and of course, Pacioretty scored 23 seconds in. The Habs never really looked back. After the first two games, it was definitely encouraging
- Al Montoya was huge in this game. He didn’t allow a lot of rebounds, and every time the Habs needed a big save, he was there. But then, to be fair, he’s been good in every game so far.
- Boy is Radulov good. That goal was a beauty, and long overdue. Lehkonen too had a really good game, and it was quite heartening to see how much Therrien apparently trusts him. However, I definitely would have liked to see him get more ice in the later part of the game.
- Maybe Jeff Petry just spent so much time out of the lineup that I forgot how good he was, but he’s been phenomenal in the past few games — especially that shot of his. /