Game preview #4 : Canadiens-Penguins
PENGUINS vs. CANADIENS
(Pittsburgh leads best-of-7 series 2-1)
Big story -- Montreal has already fought its way back from a 3-1 series deficit in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the Canadiens don't want to do it again. To avoid that fate, Montreal must win Game 4 to even this series at two victories apiece. To do that, Montreal must revitalize an attack that has been dormant for long stretches in the first nine periods of this series. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, would love to go home for Game 5 with a chance to close out the series there as injuries begin to test the team's depth.
Penguins -- Pittsburgh played a pretty good road game after a slow first period. The Penguins were outshot 7-3 in a first period dominated territorially by Montreal but went to the locker room scoreless because of the brilliance of Marc-Andre Fleury. Then the Penguins stepped it up and outshot the Canadiens 13-3 in the second period.
"We were waiting and watching and our game is initiating, being physical, speed and when we get caught watching we are a much different team," Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. "If you look at Montreal, they like to slow things down through the neutral zone and things like that and we are not that kind of team, so we have to make sure we get to our game a little better."
Evgeni Malkin was one of those players that got to his game a bit better as Game 3 unfolding and he was rewarded for that effort with the game-winning goal just 76 seconds into the third period. The goal came on a power play that was drawn by Crosby and his ability to aggressively and dangerously cycle below the Montreal goal line.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma liked the way Malkin played in Game 3, pointing out that he had 7 shots in a little less than 20 minutes of playing time and also initiated some physical contact with the Canadiens. But, Malkin says he can do more.
"I'm happy I'm scoring; I scored, but I'm not playing 100 percent," Malkin said. "I want to play more and help my team."
Fleury can't play much better, not after shutting out Montreal in Game 3. Fleury stopped all 18 shots he faced, including three huge saves in the third period.
"Everybody believes he's the main reason why we're successful at any time," Pittsburgh forward Chris Kunitz said. "We know that he makes the big saves when he needs to. Tonight he played one of his best games of the playoffs making those long white pads all the way across the crease, the ones you always remember."
Canadiens -- Montreal can't be unhappy with the game it played Tuesday in Game 3. They held Pittsburgh to 25 shots and kept the team to the outside. The only goal -- aside from Pascal Dupuis' empty-netter with 15 seconds remaining - was scored on a Pittsburgh power play that had Montreal's two best penalty killers in the box.
"I thought we played a good hockey game," coach Jacques Martin said. "When you look at, they're the Stanley Cup champions and they're a good hockey team and when you're in it right to the end, it is 1-0 hockey game.
But, that is of little solace to these Habs, who had worked so hard to gain control of this best-of-7 series with a Game 2 win in Pittsburgh. They know that a great effort in Game 3 was not good enough, especially if they want to avoid going into a 3-1 hole in this series.
"They play a sound game and they're well-coached and they're well-disciplined," defenseman Hal Gill said. "It makes them tough to play against. It's not that it is unbeatable, but it is something that we have to work a little extra to get after them."
To beat Pittsburgh, Montreal is going to have to score some timely goals. Montreal has just four even-strength goals in this series and has managed just 70 shots.
"You don't control what goes in and what doesn't go in," Martin said. "What you do control is the effort, the execution and the attention to detail. That's what you evaluate your team on. I thought the way we came out -- I thought that might be our best period of all the playoffs and we didn't score."
Who's hot -- For Pittsburgh, Dupuis has been very good and he has been rewarded with a point in each of his three games, registering a goal and two assists. For the Canadiens, Mike Cammalleri has been most of the team's offense in this series. He had two of the three goals in Game 2 and added another goal in Game 1. Rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has also been quite good. He is playing more than 21 minutes a game in this series and has a goal and an assist to go with a plus-1 rating.
Stat pack -- Montreal's Mathieu Darche dressed for Game 3, but did not step on the ice. He also played in Game 2 and earned a mere 54 seconds of ice time. Mike Cammalleri played 22:15 in Game 3, the most among Montreal's 18 skaters. Subban, amazingly, led all defensemen with 22:09 of ice time. Gill has blocked 10 shots in the first three games. Pittsburgh has just two even-strength goals in this series - scored by Matt Cooke and Craig Adams. Chris Kunitz has been a wrecking ball in this series, delivering 13 hits in the first three games. Tuesday's shutout was Fleury's first this postseason and the first since the 2008 postseason. He did not have one in 2009.