Game preview #6: Canadiens-Penguins
TV: VERSUS (HD), CBC (HD), RDS (HD), FS-P (HD)
(Pittsburgh leads best-of-seven series, 3-2)
Big story: One win is all that separates Sidney Crosby and company from a third consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The two-time defending conference champions have guaranteed that Mellon Arena won't close its doors to hockey just yet, but the Penguins hope the next time their fans are cheering them on is for Game 1 of the following round and not Game 7 of their current series with the Canadiens. To ensure that's the case, they must do what the Capitals could not and find a way to send this plucky No. 8 seed packing.
Penguins: Evgeni Malkin has been held to just one goal in this series while Crosby has no goals, three assists and just nine shots, but Pittsburgh has gotten the secondary scoring necessary to hold a 3-2 lead. Defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang contributed goals to the 2-1 win Saturday in Game 5 that has the Penguins knocking on the door of the conference finals. Gonchar has two goals and four points against the Habs, while Letang's fourth of the playoffs left him just one behind Crosby and Malkin for the team lead.
Canadiens: Backs to the wall is something Montreal has plenty of practice at already this postseason. The Canadiens are 3-0 in elimination games, turning the tables on the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals in the first round after falling into a 3-1 hole. But this time they are up against a much more experienced opponent that also happens to be the defending Stanley Cup champion. Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 131 of 134 shots in the final three games of the comeback over Washington, has given up just six goals after getting pulled in Game 1, but has only a split of those four games to show for it.
Who's hot: Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is coming off a 29-save performance in Game 5 and has stopped 72 of 76 shots (.947 save percentage) over the last three games. … Brian Gionta has three goals and two assists in the series and Michael Cammalleri had the Canadiens' lone goal Saturday, tying him with Joe Pavelski of the Sharks for the lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with nine.
Injury report: Montreal is getting thinner by the day on the blue line, with Hal Gill getting knocked out of Saturday's game with a lower-body injury. It's questionable as to whether Gill will be able to play in Game 6 and if either Jaroslav Spacek (illness) or Andrei Markov (knee) could step in for him. Spacek, who has been skating, would seem the more likely candidate, though Markov traveled with the team to Pittsburgh for Game 5 and it has been reported the Canadiens are trying to find a knee brace that would allow him to play.
Stat pack: The Penguins have a 16-11 road record since the start of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs and have clinched each of their last five series wins away from home, including Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena last year to win their third championship. … The Canadiens have been outshot in 10 of their 12 postseason games, and are actually 0-2 when enjoying the advantage in shots, including Game 5 on Saturday.
Shuffling the deck
Keeping the faith
The Numbers Game - May 8, 2010