The Pittsburgh Penguins showed no fear of Montreal’s red hot goaltender Jaroslav Halak, as they put 5-goals past him in a 6-3 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The Penguins’ success in Game 1 was due to their explosive power play that went a perfect four-for-four on goals by Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, and Alex Goligoski. Indeed, the Penguins’ offensive defensemen were on display as they found ways to move the puck around quickly on the man advantage and get quality shots in on Halak. After a short-turn study of the Canadiens’ tendancies in round 1, the Penguins’ coaching staff were able to do what the Capitals’ Bruce Boudreau couldn’t; namely, solve the Canadiens penalty kill.
The Penguins gave up the first goal to the Canadiens P.J. Subban, but then responded with two powerplay goals in the 1st by Gonchar and Staal and one on the powerplay early in the 2nd period by Letang to put them up 3-1. The Canadiens got a goal late in the 2nd by Cammalleri to make it a 1-goal game, but the Penguins responded in short order with a goal by Adams before the end of the period to restore the 2-goal lead heading into the 3rd. The Penguins finished up their powerplay dominance early in the 3rd on a goal by Goligoski after he took a beautiful cross ice pass by Sidney Crosby to make it 5-2. The Canadiens got a powerplay goal of their own midway through the 3rd by Brian Gionta, but they were never able to close the gap as the Penguins finished up the scoring with an empty netter by Bill Geurin. In all, 13 Pens’ players picked up at least a point, with Sidney Crosby, Bill Geurin, Kris Letang, and Alex Goligoski all picking up 2-points.
Friday night’s win came at a potentially heavy price, however, as the Penguins lost their third line Center and Selke Finalist, Jordan Staal. Staal got caught up with the Canadiens’ P.J. Subban near the blueline in a seemingly innocent collision. On the replay, it became evident that Staal had likely been cut by Subban’s skate as it inadvertently raked across the top of his foot. Post game reporting indicated that Staal’s laces were cut as he returned to the bench, and he was later seen leaving Mellon Arena on crutches and taken to the hospital for repair of a lacerated tendon on top of his foot. On Saturday, initial reports by TSN stated that Staal’s post-season was over, however, subsequent reporting and a statement by Coach Dan Bylsma suggest that his condition is “day-to-day”, and that he could be back in the next round if the Penguins advance past the Semi-Finals. It would seem that his return is tenuous at best, as these types of injuries usually require significant recovery time. It is unknown whether the tendon was completely severed, which would be the worst case in terms of recovery timeline.
The Pens return to the ice on Sunday at 2PM to try and take a 2-0 lead over the Canadiens. It looks like Mark Letestu will get the call to augment the roster in light of Jordan Staal’s injury. He was on the ice with for the Penguins’ practice today, along with defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Deryk Engelland. Jordan Leopold and Tyler Kennedy were also at practice today, but their status for tomorrow will be a game time decision.