The Pittsburgh Penguins took advantage of early Canadiens mistakes to take a 2-0 lead and rode that to a 4-0 win at the Bell Centre Tuesday night. Beau Bennett scored the first goal of the game and assisted on the second and third to lead the Penguins to their tenth win in their last 11 games. Sidney Crosby scored the other Pittsburgh goal. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 shots to record the shutout. Final shots on goal were 27-22 including 14-2 for the Canadiens in the third period after the game was well out of reach. The three stars were Beau Bennett, Steve Downie and Fleury.
Adding It Up –
What Might Have Been – In the first minute of the game a stretch pass sent Alex Galchenyuk in on a semi-break but he got too cute and failed to get a shot. A minute later Jiri Sekac swept around the defense and Fleury had to be sharp.
Breakdown – At 7.46 of an evenly played first period, Nathan Beaulieu made horrible pass in his own end that was intercepted by Beau Bennett who scored on Carey Price unassisted. Only thirty four seconds later, P.K. Subban gave away the puck to Olli Maatta. The puck wound up in the net but a quick whistle saved them. But a minute after that Max Pacioretty failed to handle the puck cleanly against Letang and Beaulieu blew the coverage. 2-0 and ultimately buried.
Out of Gas – This was the Canadiens fourth game in six nights. It showed. After the initial first minute flurry, they had nothing to speak of. The work ethic seemed to be there, it was simply that they weren’t getting to the puck as quickly as that had been during their six game winning streak.
The Reality – Despite the Habs early season record, it’s clear that the Penguins are the early season class of the Eastern Conference. They came into the game with the second best possession number in the NHL at 56.3%. The Canadiens were 28th at 47.8%. That’s almost a ten percent difference and the only way to overcome it is to be totally on top of your game in your own end of the ice. In that area, the Canadiens had a bad night for two periods.
On the Bright Side – The Canadiens best forward was Jiri Sekac. Four shots on goal and four solid scoring chances. Three of them while the Canadiens were still in the game. Alex Galchenyuk also showed above average energy although he made some questionable decisions when he had scoring chances.
On the Down Side – Hard to single out individuals when the most of the team was having a rough time but it was not a great night for Subban and Markov. Beaulieu’s inexperience was exposed. Mike Weaver was out with an injury and the team missed his shot blocking among other things. Pacioretty did a lot of good things defensively but he’s paid to score goals. 0 shots in the first two periods. Three in the third when the game was out of reach.
Said It All – Michel Therrien after the game – “There is still a lot of work in front of us if we want to compare ourselves to teams like (the Penguins).” Or Tampa Bay. Or Chicago. The three have combined to outscore the Canadiens 16-1.
Off the Scoresheet – Sekac led the Habs with four shots on goal. The Plekanec/Galchenyuk/Gallagher line generated 16 shots, six of them on goal. Max Pacioretty recorded six hits. Lars Eller beat Manny Malhotra in the faceoff circle 75% to 69% and the Canadiens as a team won 40 of 65 for 62%.
Moving On –They will face St. Louis Thursday at the Bell Centre (The Blues were shutout 2-0 in Boston Tuesday) Then it’s back to back weekend games at Boston and Madison Square Garden. Finishing up with a split of the final four games of the month, including next Tuesday in Buffalo would make November an unexpectedly good month for the Canadiens.