All of the things that the Canadiens did well against the Washington Capitals, fell apart in a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semi-final Friday night. After limiting Washington to just 1 goal in 33 opportunities in the first series, Pittsburgh scored four on the Habs penalty killing unit.
Adding to the disappointment of a first game loss was a serious-looking injury to defenceman Andrei Markov when he was slammed against the boards on a clean check by the Penguins’ Matt Cooke. Markov suffered what appeared to be a knee or upper leg injury and did not return.
Scoring goals for Pittsburgh were Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Craig Adams, Alex Goligoski and Bill Guerin.
For the Canadiens, P.K. Subban scored his first career playoff goal to open the game. Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta got the others.
The Canadiens outshot the Penguins 31-24,
Career First – P.K. Subban did exactly the right thin at 4:30 of the first period. He interecepted the puck at the line and instead of winding up, simply wrested the shot toward the goal. With Plekanec and Cammalleri in front the puck went through unassisted. 1-0.
Penalty Trouble – At 8:12 Brian Gionta was penalized for tripping. Twenty six seconds later after Tom Pyatt had his stick broken on a Sergei Gonchar shot, Gonchar got the puck and shot it off Plekanec and past Halak. 1-1 tie.
Oh, No!!! – At 11.46 the Penguins Matt Cooke shouldered Andrei Markov hard into the boards. He went down, gloves flying, in obvious serious pain. He did not appear the rest of the night and Canadiens officials are only saying “lower body” injury. Smells like another knee.
Another Penalty – The Markov injury prompted a melee with Travis Moen and Mark Eaton involved in sweater pulling and picking up roughing minors. Scott Gomez was also given a roughing penalty.
Two-For-Two – With 19 seconds left in the power play Jordan Staal was given room in the high slot. Halak was back in the crease and he blasted the puck past Cammalleri to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. Shots on goal in the first period were 7-7
The Second Period
Another Penalty – Canadiens caught with too many men on the ice at 1:09. At 2:34, again Halak could be accused of failing to challenge the shooter. Crosby dug the puck out along the boards and fed Chris Letang who was alone in the high slot for the shot and the goal. 3-1 Penguins. 3 goals on eight shots against Halak all on the power play.
Penguins Hurting– 12 minutes into the period, P.K. Subban in checking Jordan Staal whipped around and accidently caught the top of Staal’s skate with his own. Staal did not return.
Still In It – Subban’s work paved the way for the Canadiens to close the score 3-2 by keeping the puck inside the zone. He was fourth man on the play as Scott Gomez set up Michael Cammalleri for his 6th goal of the playoffs.
Brain Fade – The Canadiens were caught on a bad line change which allowed the Penguins to easily enter the zone. Craig Adams, just off the bench himself, was wide open for Pascal Dupuis’s pass. 4-2 after two periods. Canadiens outshot the Penguins 12-10 in the second.
Another Penalty – At 1:14 Brian Gionta, lifting the puck across ice from deep in his own zone cleared the glass for a delay of game penalty leading to power play goal number four. Again Halak didn’t appear confident in moving across the goalmouth as Crosby put the pass across to a wide open Alex Goligoski.
Sticking With His Goaltender – Jacques Martin, a former goaltender himself, left Halak in the game. He made excellent stops on Letang and Dupuis over the next 2:19 and then Halak removed him for Price.
Keeping It Close – The Canadiens get a power play 8 ½ minutes left. Bergeron set up Gionta, who was operating from the point. Gionta scored on his slapshot. 5-3.
Goaltender Out – Price out wth 18:35 and at 19:11 Bill Guerin scored into the empty net. Final score 6-3. Penguins lead the series 1-0.
Summing It Up – There was a price for the long series with Washington. We saw it in this game. Jaroslav Halak, as gallant a performer you can find anywhere, looked tired and slow. His teammates were not in the game. Where was the discipline that was the centrepiece of the Canadiens/Capitals series. Four power play goals on three bad penalties. gomez picks up an extra roughing penalty and Staal scores to give the Penguins their first lead. Too many men on the ice and it’s 3-1 Pittsburgh. Gionta hoists the puck over the glass and Goligoski scores to make it 5-2. Still for all of that, a leaden Canadiens scored three goals on Pittsburgh. Sunday’s another day. Expect Halak to be back in the nets. Expect a better looking Canadiens. But it will be a team wthout Andrei Markov which means we’ll probably see Jaroslav Spacek back after missiing four straight games and a lot more of P.K. Subban, which not such a bad thing at all.