Posted 9:37 AM ET | Comments 2
I took French in high school...but was never very good at speaking it and don't remember much of it (I know, some French Canadien is saying to himself "Stupid American!" ). But I do know what the popular culture translation of "Touché" is...
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Sometimes, as the saying goes, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em...".
While not exactly what the Penguins did on Tuesday night against the Canadiens...because in the end, they did beat them...it serves as a good enough explanation for what ended up a 2-0 Pens win and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Right from the outset it seemed as if the teams were in role reversal. In the first period, the Habs definitely had the better of the play and the lead in shots on goal...but the score was tied at 0-0 as the teams went to the locker room.
As the game wore on...and despite the NHL Network announcers "On The Fly" assessment that the Penguins were getting frustrated (by showing some video of the end of the second period skirmish that resulted in Pens power play)…the Penguins were actually very patient in their play last night.
With Hal Gill in the box for holding at the 19:48 mark of period two, the Penguins took advantage of a power play opportunity and scored on a Evgeny Malkin one-timer that was nicely screened by Sidney Crosby who was standing to the left of goalie Jaroslav Halak.
It would turn out to be the only goal the Penguins needed as Marc Andre Fleury, known for his bounce back ability, played his best game of the series in stopping all 18 Habs shots to earn the fourth playoff shutout of his career.
Eighteen shots are not all that many...but a few of them were excellent saves...the kind that only a goalie with the quickness and anticipation that Fleury has could have made. Those saves highlighted what was a strong performance by MAF, who seemed very focused as he turned aside shots and controlled rebounds well. It was the kind of performance MAF needed after game 2...and the kind we have grown to expect from him over the last two playoff seasons.
In the end it was the Penguins who didn't have all that many chances but capitalized on the few they got. And it was their goalie that made the big saves to keep his team in the game and eventually give them a win.
Malkin was skating with more authority last night and although I don't think he has played his best yet, if last night's performance was any indication, we might see it before this series is over. If we do, it will likely mean that we have won the series and it will significantly help our chances of moving forward.
Fleury did EXACTLY what he needed to last night. When the pressure is on, he performs.
I thought Letestu played well last night. Not a very big guy but maybe exactly the kind of player for this series. He showed good quickness and positionally he looked sound. I thought he was the best "call up" during the regular season and he didn't show any signs of playoff nerves.
Ponikarovsky...the lack of point production has hurt us some...but the past two games...maybe more actually...Poni is showing some grit and hustle. He never gave up on forecheck that turned into a backcheck and he eventually caused the Habs player to lose the puck. Small plays like that can add up to a win.
Marc Andre Bergeron...3 elbows and a cross-check...all in a few seconds...1 minor for roughing. I am still not sure how Cooke also got a penalty during the exchange. I know, he's no alter boy...but from the live action and then video replay they showed, he basically just took all the shots without retaliating. Lapierre did get a penalty too during the fracas...so I guess we did get a power play out of that mess.
The Bell Centre...looks like a great place to play a game. I was a little surprised, prior to last night's game, at how some writers/bloggers made it sound like the Penguins would be playing in a Coliseum full of lions. It's not a gladiator arena, it's a hockey rink. I thought, based on the fact that the Penguins won game 7 of last year's finals, at the Joe, that it would be very surprising if the Pens were negatively affected by a round 2 playoff game at the Bell Centre. Especially given the number of guys the Pens have that grew up in or around Montreal.
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