Marc-Andre Fleury’s numbers may not have been Halakian (only 18 saves), but he made some big-time stops in the third period to preserve the Pens 2-0 win in Game 3. Fleury absolutely robbed Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec in the final eight minutes of the game to help give the Pens a 2-1 series lead.
Say what you will about Fleury’s performance so far this post-season – his stats are admittedly very pedestrian – but the man continues to come up huge when the team needs him most. Hanging on to a 1-0 lead with 7:30 remaining, Fleury went post-to-post rob Cammalleri. One of the slow-mo replays told the tale, as nearly every fan seated behind the net jumped for joy when the puck left Cammalleri’s stick. He then went splitsville to deny Plekanec’s deflection from the doorstep with under 5:00 to play. Fleury improved to 9-1 lifetime in Game 3s.
Evgeni Malkin broke out of his mini-slump and scored a power-play goal 1:16 into the third to give the Pens the only goal they needed. Pascal Dupuis added an empty netter with 15 seconds left.
Montreal took the play to the Pens in the first but only had 7 shots to show for it. Max Lapierrie, who along with P.K. Subban are becoming my least favorite Habs, hit a crossbar late in the period.
It was all Pens in the second, evidenced by a 13-3 advantage in shots. The first line had a great shift about 5:00 in, and Matt Cooke narrowly missed a breakaway a minute or so later. Halak made some great saves in the second, including stops on Goligoski and Crosby late. The final 1:43 of the second was critical. That’s when the Pens dumped the puck into Montreal’s zone and kept it there for 1:31 straight. The offensive-zone dominance culminated in Hal Gill holding up Crosby, which gave the Pens the man advantage heading into the third. On that PP, Malkin one-timed a feed from Gonchar through Crosby’s screen past Halak.
- Bill Guerin was (surprisingly) not in the lineup with an undisclosed injury. I liked what the Pens did to replace him. Mark Letestu centered the third line with Cooke and Kennedy, moving Talbot back to the second line. Dupuis joined Crosby and Kunitz on the first. I liked what I saw of Letestu during the regular season, and he certainly didn’t look out of place in 12:42 of ice time Tuesday. He even had two good scoring chances. That said, let’s hope for a speedy recovery by #13.
- I’ve been tough on Alex Ponikarovsky for his failing to produce offensively since coming over from Toronto at the trade deadline. He didn’t factor into the scoring Tuesday, but I will credit him for displaying some impressive hustle and tenacity. He chased Subban from behind Montreal’s net all the way into the Pens’ defensive zone, where he stripped him of the puck. He’s not scoring, but he’s making up for it by doing the little things.
- I almost lost my dinner when I found out Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of the 5 OT, Keith Primeau game. It was a historic game, yes. But, as a fan, that was as painful an experience I can remember. Suffering through over 80 minutes of OT, only to lose (to your most bitter rival, no less), was absolutely brutal.