The Canadiens missed out on a golden chance to get a leg up on the favored Penguins in Game 3 and they didn’t need to be reminded of that fact. After a flurry of chances in the opening period, it ended up coming down to the all-important first goal – one that never came for the Habs.
“We got out to the kind of start we were hoping to have here on home ice. We had some really good opportunities that we just didn’t take advantage of,” said Brian Gionta of a first period that saw the Habs hold the Penguins to only three shots. “We had our top PK guys in the box at the same time and they took full advantage and scored that big power-play goal. Now it’s just up to us to make the most of our chances when they come.”
One of those top guys was Hal Gill who was soon joined by fellow human bullet-shield Josh Gorges who was sent off for an offsetting minor penalty early in the third period.
“What can you say, it’s sickening to be in the box when a goal like that is scored and seeing Josh come join me is one situation where having company doesn’t help,” said Gill, knowing that his team was still in this one until an empty net goal put it out of reach in the dying moments of regulation.
“We can’t beat ourselves up over this. At the end of the day we played the type of game we wanted to,” added Gill. “This isn’t the time to get discouraged. This is just about doing a better job capitalizing on our chances.”
Anyone surprised to see the Penguins so comfortable grinding out an ugly win the way they did hasn’t been spending any quality time with Michael Cammalleri of late.
“People like to get caught up thinking this is free-wheeling team because of all the top level talent they have, but they play a very deliberate and disciplined style. They showed that in Game 3,” warned Cammalleri, sounding a lot like someone angling for a future gig as a hockey analyst. “These guys didn’t lose a game on the road in the first round for a reason. They keep things really simple especially on the road and there isn’t a lot of room out there. That’s how they won the Cup last year.”
Fully aware of how Pittsburgh got the job done last spring and the owner of a shiny reminder of that playoff run, Gill isn’t surprised to see this series beginning to take an ugly turn. With post-whistle extra-curricular activities mounting with each shift, Game 4 is shaping up to be a real doozy.
“This has been such a tight series that things are bound to get a little more physical,” said Gill before weighing in on Sidney Crosby’s obviously mounting frustration that has held him pointless for two straight games. “I mean, he doesn’t like to get hit, but then again who does, really?”
Fellow defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron didn’t sound like someone who exactly liked coming so close to winning Game 3 before coming up empty-handed.
“It was kind of the opposite of the first two games. This is a loss that leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth,” admitted Bergeron. “We were in that game and we can play with them. We’ve proven that we can battle with the defending Cup champs.”
Done proving they belong in the second round, the underdog Habs must now beat the Penguins before it’s too late.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com.
The Numbers Game - May 4
Edged in game 3