You can understand Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma’s obsession with Michael Cammalleri. After all, he’s almost singlehandedly  killing his hockey team. 

Before Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh, Bylsma addressed the inability of his team to rein in Cammalleri in the playoffs last spring.  Cammalleri led the Canadiens with seven goals in the seven game Eastern Conference semi-final.

Philadelphia did a better job with (Cammalleri) than we did; keeping him to the outside and making him more uncomfortable on the ice. He was far too comfortable in that series against us, and it was a big factor.”

So the Saturday night mission was to unsettle Cammalleri’s comfort zone. Get after him – check him – hit him – disrupt his game whenever he hit the ice.

When it comes to Cammalleri, for Pittsburgh at least,  it’s ‘easier said than done’.

Or, to trot out another cliche, ‘You can’t hit what you can’t catch’.  In their all-out effort to slow up Cammalleri, the best the Penguins could do was three hits, two by Matt Cooke, the other by Eric Tangradi.

Meanwhile, Cammalleri was unloading eight shots at Marc-Andre Fleury, four of them on goal. 

And of course, he scored twice; the first coming straight from the slot ahead of his check and off Tomas Plekanec’ passout. The second, which tied the game, was scored on a deflection in that dirty area in front of the Pittsburgh goal.

If you’re adding it up, that’s nine goals against Pittsburgh over the last eight games. All eight games, including Saturday night had playoff-type intensity. In those games, under the Penguins’ special checking scrutiny, Cammalleri has been able to unload 56 shots on Fleury, 35 of them on-goal, almost five per game.  You let a scorer like Cammalleri pile up that many chances the goals naturally follow. 

So, it’s back to the drawing board for Bylsma and the Penguins.  They’ve got until January 6th, the date of their next Montreal meeting,  to come up with Plan-B.