LIVE BLOG: Pens @ Habs, Matinee Madness!

Seeing as last week's live blog was a success, I thought today's matinee would be a good opportunity to do another one.

Refresh often, Updates and thoughts will be coming every few minutes!

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THIRD PERIOD:

4:42PM: When you think this team is due to lose, they pull out an effort like they did tonight. Much credit to the Bulldogs call-ups (including Mathieu Darche), who, along with most of the rest of the team, put in a 60 minute effort and earned this win, one of the few wins they've actually EARNED this season. Great game, great win, great TEAM win. I will update with post-game thoughts shortly, thanks for following the live blog through the game!

4:40PM: Habs are 1-6 going into this PP. Looks like it's going to be 1 for 7 with less than 30 seconds to go in the powerplay and less than 1 minute to go in the game.

4:38PM: Fetodenko gets a good chance, Halak makes a great save, but the story of the play is Evgeni Malkin taking a BAD penalty to kill the Pens momentum. It could have been 5-4 folks.

4:36PM: Bad 2 man addy for the Habs leads to a breakaway for Evgeni Malkin, who scores shorthanded on a breakaway. Score is now 5-3 Habs.

4:33PM: Habs go on the powerplay as Guerin draws the instigator for going after White. Hopefully the 4th line gets a goal, finally, or at the very least, a Gionta Hat trick! (with that said, the Pens get another penalty, 5 on 3 habs with 5 minutes to go).

4:30PM: Guerin vs. Ryan White? All he did was hit poor little Evgeni Malkin! Either way, White wins the fight. hope Guerin didn't hurt his hip.

4:29PM: Metropolit, Desharnais and Trotter running the powerplay and making the Pens look like fools. Trotter can't score though, as the powerplay expires and just over 6 minutes are left in the game.

4:28PM: For the record it was Gionta's 16th (to pass Plekanec for second most goals on the team) from Moen and Gomez at 10:47 of the 3rd. Gionta scores that one on his knees, never giving up on the play.

4:27PM: Trotter draws another penalty for the Habs with less than 9 minutes to go on the game and the Habs go to work.

4:25PM: Gionta scores his second of the game and 16th of the season, 5-2 Habs!

4:22PM: Shots are 28-19 with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd. Guerin, Letestu, Cooke and Dupuis have 3 each for Pittsburgh. Markov and Trotter have 4 for the Habs, Gill and Moen 3 each, Gionta, Pleks, Darche with 2 a piece. Really playing a team game today.

4:17PM: With the game basically over, Dan Bylsma decides to pull Marc-Andre Fleury. Smart move with a game tomorrow in Washington and Fleury heading to Vancouver next week. Not the best game for Fleury but he wasn't that bad really. Nevertheless, if you scroll down all the way to the bottom of the blog, you'll notice that I mentioned that goaltending would be the key to this game, and Fleury not being A+ certainly proved that.

4:15PM: Hard work pays off and Mathieu Darche gets his second goal of the season at 7:15 of the third from Plekanec and Spacek.

4:14PM: Trotter hits the post! What is this kid going to have to do to score a goal!

4:12PM: Game is starting to get a little rought now. Fedotenko big hit on the Habs end on Hamrlik and a scrum ensues when Fleury makes a save on the other side of the ice.

4:08PM: Once again the 4th line is given confidence, starting the period despite only having 15 games of NHL experience between them (14 coming from Ryan White alone). But the Pens momentum hasn't been halted between periods and they seem to be aching to score. The Pleks-SK-Darche lines gets the best scoring chance so far though, 17 minutes to go in regulation.

4:05PM: And we're once again back as the puck drops to start the 3rd period. The Canadiens lead the game 3-2 and dominated the Pens until the last few shifts of the 2nd. But Sidney Crosby's troupes aren't going to give up without a fight, as they awoke in the last 5 minutes of the second to give the Habs a run for their money. Can they bring that momentum into the 3rd period, or will the break in play be their demise?

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SECOND PERIOD:

3:47PM: Period over and the Habs lead 3-2. The Pens really picked up their game at the end of that one and will look to take some momentum into the 3rd period. I'll be back in 15 with more live blogging.

3:43PM: Good to see the Habs continue to hustle. If they can keep up the hard work, they should take this game, even if the Pens finally decide to wake up. 2:30 to go in the period.

3:40PM: The Pens are now starting to control the play. Let's just hope the Canadiens don't turn back into their old selves, as the Pens are still turning over the puck way to much. The Habs can continue to create odd man rushes if they don't go all Jacques Martin on us. 4 minutes to go, shots are now 22-12 Habs, game is 3-2.

3:38PM: Crosby creates a nice play setting up Bill Guerin's 17th. Puck goes through Crosby and Halak to make it a 3-2 game. Can the Habs continue their momentum now as the Bell Centre gets SLIGHTLY quieter?

3:36PM: I really like how JM is trusting the 4th line AHLers today, part of it has to certainly do with the fact they're playing tomorrow and there are a lot of injuries with the team, but their play is certainly warranting the treatment. Trotter almost scored his first at the tail end of that powerplay. 6:30 to go in the period, habs up 3-1.

3:32PM: Bell Centre goes silent as Markov goes into the boards awkwardly, but they're cheering as he gets up quickly. Hopefully it was just surprise or a pinched nerve or something, but the Habs continue on the PP with 8:30 to go in the period.

3:31PM: The Canadiens go right back to the powerplay as Crosby goes to the box. Habs all over the Pens as it took about 5 shots for the delayed call to go through.

3:29PM: 3-1 habs now! Gomez gets his 8th on the powerplay, and the Habs are making it look easy now.

3:27PM: The game is certainly picking up now. Gionta gets his 15th after a nice save from Halak and a nifty backhanded pass from Hamrlik. He went hard into the boards after the partial break but looks ok. Goal at 9:38 of the 2nd. On the ensuing play, the Canadiens 4th line draws the team's second powerplay of the game, and the Habs go back to work.

3:26PM: Just like that, Gionta scores!

3:25PM: Pens played better on that powerplay then they had all of the game before that. But the Canadiens PK is still way too good. The Habs kill their 3rd straight penalty with 10 minutes to go in the game, and we're still all tied up at 1-1. The Pens only have one shot the entire period.

3:21PM: Hooking penalty to Moen in front of the net, Pens will get their third man-advantage.

3:18PM: Game is slowing down a lot now. Habs still getting a few chances but both teams are playing more cautiously now. The penguins don't have a shot in the 2nd, and the Habs have now doubled up on them 14-7 with 14 minutes to go in the period.

3:15PM: Malkin's not into this game, looks like he's really coasting. Is he upset that Crosby is taking all the spotlight? Either way, he's contributing to this near-catatonic Pens team today, who's sleeping during a frigging powerplay. Habs actually got an odd man rush with a man down. 17:30 to go in the period and the score is still 1-1.

3:12PM: We're back as the second period gets us going again. Found out during the intermission that healthy scratch Yannick Weber has been re-assigned to Hamilton.

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FIRST PERIOD:

2:55PM: 1st period is done. Shots are 11-7 habs, who seem to have been playing their 3rd and 4th line a fair bit with another game tomorrow afternoon. Score is 1-1 on goals from Pleks and Dupuis. Be back in 15 for second period action.

2:53PM: The Pens kill the penalty and escape the first with a 1-1 tie game. But they will have 1:55 of powerplay time to start the second, as Tomas Plekanec follows up his early goal with a slashing penalty to end the period.

2:52PM: Desharnais gets a chance with Plekanec and Gionta on the 1st unit. Gomez with Metropolit (who leads the habs with 7 powerplay goals somehow) and Darche as the second unit. Definitely much different looking PP than a few games ago.

2:50PM: two minutes to go in the 1st and things are really settling down now. Player of the period... Ryan White, Mathieu Darche or Travis Moen? Hal Gill's been good too. 2 minutes to go and the Habs will play the rest of the period (or less) on the PP, as the Pens 4th line takes a penalty.

2:43PM: Thinks seem to be settling in on both sides after that crazy start. Habs getting the majority of the chances now. Controlling the pace of the game, getting most of the shots and chances and causing a lot of turnovers. Is it because the Pens are playing that bad, or is the youth movement out of Hamilton causing this team to play a higher-tempo/big-effort type of game? 5 minutes to go in the 1st.

2:40PM: Habs continue to be all over Fleury. I really gotta take a look at the turnover numbers after this is over. 8:30 to go in the first and the Habs have an 8-5 lead in the shots despite a 1-1 tie game.

2:37PM: Pens have had a week off and it shows. Turnover-central on their part. Maybe they're already thinking about tomorrow's game vs. the Caps, if it even happens, that is.

2:34PM: Gill gets a good shot in with Ryan White all over Fleury and scrum ensues in front of the goal. This is exactly what the Habs need to do. So far Darche, White, Trotter, the AHLers showing the regulars how things need to be done. Love this pressure!

2:32PM: Habs kill the penalty successfully. with 11 minutes to go in the 1st the Canadiens are outshooting the Pens 5-2. How often have we said THAT this season?

2:28PM: Maxwell goes off for hooking at 4:59. Canadiens shouldn't be too worried though, Pens PP has been dismal. On the first PP shift, Gorges gets his stick stuck in the glass... this is going to be a weird one.

2:27PM: Fleury's gotta learn that he's not Dominic Hasek and stay in his own net. Habs almost scored again, Darche gets his second scoring change of the game and he's really taking advantage of the Habs injury woes. 5 minutes in now and this game is living up to its billing.

2:25PM: To recap, Plekanec gets his 15th, now second on the team in goals, from Darche and Sergei, Dupuis' 12th from Jordan Staal. Darche and Trotter follow up with good chances and the Habs aren't letting up after a weird first minute. We're not 4:30 into the first.

2:21PM: Great save from Jaro on Staal, but unfortunately Dupuis was moving in hard and gets it in the net. Goal stands, 1-1 a minute into the game and this one looks like it's going to be that kind of game.

2:19PM: Next shift, O'Byrne trips over himself (surprise, surprise), Dupuis scores. But it hits his body and the officials are going to take a second look at this.

2:18PM: Darch hits Fleury while he was handing the puck behind the net, open net and Plekanec scores his 15th of the season! Questionable play but it didn't look on purpose. Pens were expecting a call and didn't get it. Nevertheless, 1-0 habs 30 seconds in, in a surprising start to this game!

2:15PM: Puck Drop, game is on!

2:10PM: What the hell is up with Vancouver? Losing 2-0 to the Bruins???

2:07PM: Scott Gomez took a puck to the back of the head in the pre-game skate. Looks like he's going to need a few stitches but he'll hopefully be good to go.

2:05PM: Looks like we're getting Jim Hughson and Guy Carbonneau on commentary... wonder if something happened to Bob Cole!

2PM: Live blogging about to start. Game is on CBC and RDS in Canada. Naturally the pre-game topic is going to be about Brendan Burke leaving us WAY too early.

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Pre-Game thoughts from earlier:

The Canadiens, coming off two victories that should have been losses, host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The last couple of times these two teams met, it wasn't all that fun for the Habs. Their late October meeting at Mellon Arena yielded a 6-1 victory for the Pens. Sidney Crosby had his first of many hat tricks this season, and Jaroslav Halak was pulled before the third period.

The second meeting between these two clubs, in November, yielded a 3-1 victory for the Pens. Crosby shined yet again, scoring a goal and adding an assist, and Carey Price looked weak, albeit while stopping 27 shots. It was, however, a closer contest than the one in October, and it got even closer in December at the Bell Centre. Pittsburgh did win 3-2, almost doubling the Canadiens' shots, but those kinds of statistics have come to be expected from the Habs. Carey Price stopped 38 of the Pens 41 shots but took the loss. Marc-Andre Fleury got his third straight win against the Habs.

Fleury and the Pens will look to make it a clean sweep this afternoon, but with the Canadiens playing better and better in every game against the Pens this season, it could be a close one. Jaroslav Halak has been A+, and the Canadiens have found ways to win games despite being severely outplayed in recent games.

The Canadiens will look to make it 3 in a row against red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Pens, but just like against the Canucks and agaisnt the Bruins, it will be a difficult task. Can Jaroslav Halak have another 45 game performance? Can the Canadiens take advantage of Fleury, just like they did Roberto Luongo and Tuuka Rask? Tune in today at 2PM to find out, as we will be covering the game LIVE here on TCL!

LINE-UP NOTES:

Benoit Pouliot and Marc-Andre Bergeron will miss this weekend's games. Bergeron took a shot in the third period of the Bruins game on Thursday, and Pouliot is out with an upper-body injury. Along with them, Yannick Weber and Matt D'Agostini will be healthy scratches.

Taking their place as a 4th line unit will be David Desharnais, Ryan White, and making his NHL debut, Brock Trotter.

Tomas Plekanec and Sergei Kostitsyn, who took therapy days on Friday, will be in the line-up.

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STATS

*Note: Injured players are omitted from stat leaders.

-- HABS PENS
Goals: Gionta/Plekanec (14) Crosby (37)
Assists: Plekanec (41) Malkin (38)
Points: Plekanec (55) Crosby (71)
Plus/Minus: Spacek (+8) Staal (+13)
Time on Ice: Markov (24:06 per game) Gonchar (24:50 per game)
PIMs: Gill (53) Rupp (73)
Shots: Plekanec (145) Crosby (211)
SVP: Halak (.930) Johnson (.913)
GAA: Halak (2.40) Fleury (2.59)
Record: Halak (16-8-2 27GP) Rask (28-15-1 45GP)
Injuries: Andrei Kostitsyn (knee, 6 weeks)
Paul Mara (upper body, IR)
Mike Cammalleri (MCL, 6 weeks)
Marc-Andre Bergeron (lower body, 1 week)
Benoit Pouliot (upper body, DTD)
Chris Kunitz (abdominal surgery, 4-6 weeks)
Eric Godard (groin, 4-6 weeks)
Maxim Talbot (groin, DTD)
Last 10: 4-4-2, won 2 7-3-0, won 2
Standings: 27-25-6, 6th, 60Pts, 58GP 35-21-1, 4th, 71PTS, 57GP
GF/GA per game: 2.48GF, T28th/ 2.66GA, 11th 3.04GF, 5th / 2.82GA, 21st
PP/PK %: 25.4%, 2nd / 83.5%, 8th 16.3%, 27th / 82.8%, 11th

WHAT THE STATS SAY:

Goaltending is key in this game. The only way the Canadiens are going to stop Sidney Crosby, who seems determined to win the Maurice Richard trophy this year, is by receiving the same performance from Jaroslav Halak as they did the last two games. With Halak making over 90 saves in the last two games though, that may be easier said than done. The team's saving grace is that Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't looked exactly like a Stanley Cup winning goaltender. He hasn't been bad, but his stats haven't been all that great either. And while he's been great against Montreal, the Canadiens will need to find a way to stop that trend. With the Habs three best offensive weapons out with injuries though (Bergeron, Pouliot, and of course, Cammalleri) that's going to be easier said than done.

Again, tune back into TCL for live game updates starting at 2PM, and enjoy the game! Until then, read yesterday's Habs/Bruins game review, and answer 10 questions inspired by (stolen from) Eric Engels).

See you all at 2!

Prax
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