The Pittsburgh Penguins managed to eek a point out of the matchup with the Montreal Canadiens after a miserable first 21-minutes of play left them down 3-0. The Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled from the net in favor of Dany Sabourin and the Penguins struggled back to tie the game, kept it notted through the overtime frame, and finally lost in an extended shootout on a goal by the Canadien’s 8th shooter. Rookie call-up Tyler Kennedy had an impressive first game despite getting any points. His presence was very noticeable and provided a lot of energy to the Penguins re-engineered 4th line.
In the first period, it was all Montreal as they outshot the slumbering Penguins 14-6. The Penguins got off on a bad foot after a quick hooking penalty to Adam Hall at 0:49. The Penguins penalty killing unit was able to prevent the league’s leading power play on that chance, but it had the effect of tilting the ice towards the Penguins net. At 7:13, the Canadiens capitalized on their momentum with an even strength goal by Mathieu Dandenault, with assists by Kastsitsyn and Komasarek. At 10:42, it was Jordan Staal who took a trip to the penalty box for elbowing, and this time the Canadiens wasted no time in reminding everyone of their dominance on the man-advantage. Just 11 seconds into the power play, Andrei Markov put the puck past Fleury to put the Canadiens up 2-0 halfway through the first. Higgins and Koivu were credited with assist. The Canadiens went 1 for 3 on the man advantage in the first, while the Penguins were unable to convert on their lone opportunity.
Just 49 seconds into the second, the Montreal Canadiens struck again on an even strength goal by Michael Ryder that beat Fleury high on the glove side. Fleury, who allowed three goals on 15 shots, was then pulled by Penguins coach Michel Therrien and replaced by backup tender Dany Sabourin. Then, a minute later at 1:49 of the second, Montreal’s Alexei Kovalev hit Evgeni Malkin from behind driving him headfirst into the boards along the sidewall. The hit elicited a fiesty response from the Penguins Captain who jumped on Kovalev in defense of Malkin. The action sparked the crowd, and more importantly the Penguins players who had not been mentally in the game up to this point. Kovalev took a double minor for boarding & roughing and Crosby took a penalty for roughing, setting up the Penguins for the man-advantage. At 3:03, while still on the power-play, the Penguins got on the board with a goal by Petr Sykora that was assisted by Adam Hall and Evgeni Malkin. “I think we need to play with more emotion and I think that goal and that power play certainly lifted us a bit and got us back in the game,” Crosby said. “I think we rolled on from there.” A little over 5 minutes later, Sidney Crosby scored a goal of his own at even strength on a nice up ice rush, tic-tac-toe passing play with Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Whitney. With the score now 3-2, it put the game in reach for the Penguins who finally found their legs and were getting good backstop action from netminder Sabourin. The Penguins outshot the Canadiens 10-7 in the second and were 1 for 2 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0 for 2.
In the third period, both teams played a very tight game with only 10 shots registered between the two. The Penguins were given an opportunity in the final 4 minutes of the game when the tired Canadiens team made a couple of mistakes that put them a man-down for two consecutive penalty calls. The Penguins capitalized at 18:08 on a power play goal by Ryan Whitney off from a beautiful feed by Evgeni Malkin to tie the game and send it into overtime. The play was also assisted by Petr Sykora. For Malkin, a dominating force on the ice, it was his 3rd assist of the night. He was credited with the game’s 1st star for his outstanding play.
In the overtime period, it looked bleak as the Penguins’ Ryan Malone took a hooking call just 15 seconds into overtime. But the Penguins’ penalty killing unit did a fabulous job in the 4 on 3 and kept the Canadiens to the outside. The Pen’s held the Canadiens to 3 shots in the 5-minute OT, while only putting up 1 shot of their own, and forced the game into a shootout.
In the shootout, the Penguins failed to convert despite getting 8 chances against Canadiens’ netminder Cary Price. Despite facing 8 Pittsburgh Penguins in the shootout, the rookie Canadiens netminder had to only make 3 saves. Erik Christensen, Petr Sykora, Jarkko Ruutu, Ryan Whitney and Mark Recchi all missed the net and Sergei Gonchar had the puck poke-checked by Price. The only shots that made it to the net and required a save by Price were from Crosby and Malkin. “It didn’t feel like I had to touch the puck that much,” Price said. “That’s part of being a goalie, trying to make yourself look big and try to make them hit a small target. Hopefully they either miss the net or hit me.” Surprisingly, Coach Therrien left productive forward Maxime Talbot sitting on the bench during the shootout. It was the 8th Canadien shooter who finally found the twine behind Dany Sabourin to win the shootout and the game. “He made a good move. I thought he was going to go far side,” said Sabourin, “That was a great shootout, both goalies made some great saves. It’s too bad we didn’t get out with the win.” Sabourin was fantastic in net on the shootout, despite the loss.
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The Penguins hit the road for a 4-game road trip starting Tuesday night in Minnesota against the Wild, followed by the Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.