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

Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Game 57: Montreal Canadiens @ Pittsburgh Penguins

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

After three days off to work on their defensive play, the Montreal Canadiens did look somewhat better in their own zone versus the Buffalo Sabres. But, as has been the case a lot in this season of whack-a-mole for Martin St-Louis, a new issue popped its head up last night: turnovers at the opposition blue line.

The worst ones came on special teams, first a fancy stick-handling attempt from the unfancy Joel Armia on the penalty kill, then the all-too-common misplay of the puck at the blue line while on the power play from Mike Matheson. The latter wasn’t helped by a flip pass from Cole Caufield as he was under duress on the boards, but there was still a chance for the veteran defenceman to make some type of play on the puck. Both misplays ended up in goals, turning a 2-1 lead for Montreal into the 3-2 deficit that stood at the final horn.

After hovering near the .500 mark all season long, the Habs have now dropped four games below that level for the first time this season, and have two wins in seven games since trading Sean Monahan during the bye week. The story was very similar after parting with players ahead of last year’s deadline, so we likely have to get used to more losses than wins over the final 26 games.

Canadiens Statistics Penguins
22-26-8 Record 24-21-8
44.7% (29th) Scoring-chances-for % 52.4% (10th)
2.78 (27th) Goals per game 2.89 (25th)
3.53 (28th) Goals against per game 2.68 (5th)
20.1% (18th) PP% 13.5% (30th)
74.0% (31st) PK% 82.1% (8th)
0-0-2 Head-to-Head Record 2-0-0

The Habs have already lost two times to the Pittsburgh Penguins this year, albeit in extra time. Following a 4-3 shootout loss on December 13, they were dealt an overtime defeat in the last game of Monahan’s tenure with the team on January 27. Monahan had an assist on the tying goal that night, a power-play marker from Juraj Slafkovský during the early stages of what became an eight-game point streak.

That run didn’t reach nine last night in Montreal, partly because Slafkovský took three minor penalties in the game. Before the recent three-day break, he was upset with himself about missing a chance at the very end of the game versus the Washington Capitals, and now he’s added the most undisciplined game of this season to the list of things to be upset about. (That replaces the five minutes he had for fighting in a game versus the Sabres on December 9, so there just seems to be something about Buffalo.)

He’ll take that simmering attitude into a game versus a team that just isn’t figuring its game out this season. Defence has been very strong for the Penguins, led from the crease by Tristan Jarry, but the wins are not coming. They sport a +11 goal differential this season, but while every other team in the black sits in a playoff position, Pittsburgh is eight points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the last position in the Eastern Conference race. The power play has not clicked, which Jaromir Jagr, in town for his jersey retirement, says is the result of having elite offensive players who seem like better shooting options to the person in control of the puck. Sometimes, as Montreal finally figured out this year, someone just has to put the puck on net.

The talk now is about which pieces the Penguins can sell at the deadline, which is an unfamiliar situation for Kyle Dubas. He may not have enjoyed much post-season success with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he had teams good enough to get there, and he surely expected the same after inheriting Sidney Crosby and then trading for Erik Karlsson. But, like his previous team, there’s a crucial element missing from the Penguins, and the GM’s leash probably won’t be as long as it was in Toronto to figure it out in the final years of the careers of Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

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