Despite looking loose, rejuvinated, and catlike with lightning fast reflexes in the pre-season and large stretches of the first two games, Marc-Andre Fleury let this one go tonight. Despite outshooting, out-hitting, and out-chancing them, the Penguins ended up giving up 2 goals in the final 3 minutes of the game to lose 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens. Yes, the same Montreal Canadiens that ended last season’s playoff run and deprived the Penguins of a win in their last game played in the old Civic Arena (aka Mellon Arena). It turns out that the Montreal Canadiens also deprived the Pittsburgh Penguins of a win in their first game at the old Civic Arena as well. History sometimes has a way of biting you in the ass, and lord knows that a lot of the Hockey Gods once played for Montreal. After this frustrating loss, the Penguins head to New Jersey tomorrow for a day game on Monday before returning to Pittsburgh on Wednesday when they will host the Maple Leafs and try to put their first win behind them in the new barn.
This was one chippy game, filled with the type of play that you don’t normally see this early in a season. Credit the Penguins for bringing a physical game to the Canadiens, outhitting their opponent 47-27. A fight between Mike Comrie and Maxim Lapierre, are you kidding me? Guess who ate his wheaties this morning? Thankfully for him, there weren’t really any punches thrown. Maxime Talbot gets suckered into dropping the gloves…..only to find out that he was the only one willing to go, and so he went…..to the penalty box….alone. It appears that Sidney Crosby remembers PJ Subban from last season’s playoffs. Eric Tangradi must have been watching those playoffs too, as he zeroed in on Mike Cammalleri and helped him take a seat on the ice.
The Penguins did get two goals tonight, one from Evgeni Malkin and one from Mark Letestu. Sidney Crosby and Alex Goligoski assisted on Malkin’s goal, while Matt Cooke and Paul Martin assisted on Letestu’s. Just months after winning the Rocket Richard scoring trophy, Sidney Crosby has yet to find the back of the net through the first two games of this season…..a first in his 6 seasons in the NHL. The powerplay is still a work in progress, and why I will never know. They went 0-for-6 in tonight’s tilt…..an improvement here could have led to a different outcome to this game. Like last season, the penalty kill has been very effectice, even without Jordan Staal in the lineup. The Penguins peppered Carey Price with 38-shots tonight, but only got two past the sometimes inconsistent netminder. Marc-Andre Fleury saw 27 shots, and let in three for an 0.889 save percentage. It makes you wonder if we will see Brent Johnson on Monday against the New Jersey Devils. Don’t be surprised. The Devils will be looking to rebound from their 7-2 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
One thing you can tell about this Penguins’ team is that they have a lot of potential for greatness this season, but with the significant off-season moves they are still adapting to their gameplan and new linemates. Things are still a little sloppy at times, but tonight’s play was an improvement over game 1. The addition of Michalek and Martin to the defense will pay dividends, but not without some growing pains along the way as they learn the system and their new defensive partners’ tendencies. Paul Martin looked very good through much of tonight’s game, showing tremendously fluid skating and a ability to see the ice and create plays. He also uses his stick very well in the defensive zone to break up plays. Zbynek Michalek also showed his ability to quickly move the puck up the ice and ignite the offensive rush. The forward lines are still working things out, but they are not there yet. Give them time. On to New Jersey!