Canadiens Fall to Penguins Heading Into Game Day: Montreal @ Toronto
Pittsburgh Penguins 5 - 4 Montreal Canadiens (SO)
The Montreal Canadiens paid a visit to the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins. After finding themselves up 4-2 to start the third, the Canadiens had trouble holding the lead, and ended up with a 5-4 shootout loss.
The first period opened up with Lars Eller scoring his ninth of the season just 34 seconds into the first period, giving the Canadiens an early lead. The rough stuff started soon after as Max Pacioretty was forced to answer for his hit on Kris Letang back in November when he dropped the gloves with Chris Kunitz in what turned out to be more of a hugging match than a fight. Letang got some redemption of his own as he netted the tieing goal for the Penguins on a beautiful play just seconds later. The early scoring didn't stop there as Erik Cole scored the Canadiens second of the night on an Andrei Kostitsyn rebound. The rest of the period was quiet in the way of scoring, and a majority of the chances went to the Penguins who out-shot the Canadiens 10-6 in the period.
The Habs began the second period on the power play, and it paid off for them as Andrei Kostitsyn found the back of the net in the dieing seconds of the man-advantage. After some back-and-forth hockey, the Penguins answered with a short-handed goal by Dustin Jeffrey to cut the lead to one. Max Pacioretty helped widen the gap once again on a great pass from Erik Cole to score his 16th of the campaign. The period ended without anymore scoring, but with Kris Letang taking a penalty just 14 seconds before the buzzer.
In the third it was the Penguins who opened scoring as Dustin Jeffrey scored his second of the game, sniping one past Budaj to bring his team within one. After fighting for the whole period to tie the game at four, Malkin unloaded a blast from outside the face-off circle to beat Budaj with just three minutes remaining. 60 minutes wasn't enough to settle this one, and that means overtime!
Overtime came and went without a game-winning goal, and without many real scoring chances for either side, so it was time for a shootout to decide this one. First up for the Penguins was defenseman Kris Letang who was turned away by Peter Budaj in his first shootout appearance of the season. The Canadiens first shooter was David Desharnais who was stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury. Malkin was next for the Pens and made no mistake, beating Budaj to give Pittsburgh the advantage. The Habs looked to Andrei Kostitsyn to match it, but had his stick break on the attempt. James Neal had a chance to wrap it up for the Pens, but Budaj made the all important save! In a surprise choice the Habs went with Scott Gomez. With the game on his stick Gomez skated in, and Fleury made the stop to complete to come back!
It was a hard fought game by both teams, but by the end it looked like the Penguins just wanted it more. It took the Pens until the dieing minutes of the third period to force overtime, but after outshooting the Habs 38-29, they were probably the more deserving team. Peter Budaj had another strong performance but wasn't able to hold off the talented Pens, who were surprisingly led by Dustin Jeffrey who came into the game without a point this season, and came out of it with two goals and an assist. The Canadiens now find themselves in a strange position after getting a point out of the shootout loss. While the team is only three points out of 15th in the conference, they are also nine points out of a playoff position. While percentages will tell you the Habs' chance of making the post-season is incredibly unlikely, anything is possible, and one has to wonder which finish is best for the Canadiens. While no fan, and certainly no player likes to lose, securing a top draft pick and a possible future superstar could be exactly what this Montreal squad needs to find success in the playoffs.
While the Canadiens will be, understandably, disappoitned with the loss, they've got to shake it off and prepare themselves for a tough game tomorrow night with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be looking to climb to eighth in the conference.
GAME DAY: Montreal Canadiens @ Toronto Maple Leafs
It's Hockey Night in Canada, and what better way to spend it than watching the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs revive one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports? The Canadiens will of course be trying to break out of their season-long slump that has the team currently sitting 12th in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs, who are currently sitting at 9th in the conference, will be looking to get back into a playoff spot.
While the Canadiens will be tired going into this one after going to a shootout with Pittsburgh on Friday night, it's going to take a big effort to win this one. The Leafs have lost three of their last four, but are coming off a win against the Minnesota Wild and would love to regain momentum with a big win over the rival Canadiens.
If the Canadiens are to turn it around, this is the time. It seems like it has been said over and over since the start of the season, and it's becoming rather redundant. Regardless, it will be said again, regardless of if it is a true statement or just false hope from fans who hate to see their team lose. The Canadiens have dropped seven of their last ten games, and are three points out of the basement in the Eastern conference.
Of the few bright spots on the team, the line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty and Erik Cole has probably been the brightest. This line seems to click just about every night, and will need to be on the top of their game if the Habs are to win this one. Rene Bourque should also be looking to contribute offensively as he has not had a single point since joining the Canadiens despite some solid play in the games he has played with the club so far.
After resting their starting goaltender on Friday night, Carey Price should get the start against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday. Price let in five goals the last time these two teams met back in October, so he will be looking for a little bit of redemption in this one.
The result of this game, and the other games around the league on Saturday night, could mean the difference between buying and selling come the February 27th trade deadline. Despite the Canadiens struggles this season, a game between the Leafs and Habs is always a great one to watch, and you can catch the game live on CBC and RDS at 7:00 PM Eastern.