First the good ne...","articleSection":"Penguins News","author":{"@type":"Person","name":"IronCity","url":"https://penslabyrinth.com/author/ironcity/"}}

Perfect Power Play Propels Pens Past Habs In Series Opener

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First the good news. The fourth-seeded Penguins looked dominant for a majority of tonight’s second-round opener against the eighth-seeded Canadiens in Mellon Arena. The crispest power play in memory went a perfect four-for-four in propelling the favorites to a 6-3 victory. Despite being outshot 31-24, the Penguins overcame a sluggish start to keep a comfortable lead and chase Montreal’s first-round hero, goalie Jaroslav Halak, after five markers on 20 shots.

Now the bad news. A freakish injury to Jordan Staal in the second period could prove costly. Canadien fans will surely counter with the loss of Andrei Markov early in the contest as significant, but the Pens, particularly the penalty kill, would certainly miss the young Selke finalist. We await the verdict, crossing our fingers that the centerman will return for Sunday afternoon’s game two.

As for tonight’s game, Montreal hit the ice with the same desperation they used to defeat Washington in three straight to close out the first-round upset. Rookie P.K. Subban continued his magical playoff ride by depositing a shot through traffic and into the net just 4:30 into the first period. Pittsburgh looked rusty at the start, getting their game legs back under them after six days of rest.

Once the Pens were settled they began to roll. Power play snipers Sergei Gonchar and Staal scored to put the home squad in front for good midway through the first period. Staal’s goal came after Scott Gomez took a penalty offering retribution for a clean hit Matt Cooke laid on Markov that sent the veteran sprawling to the ice in pain with an apparent leg injury. The Russian did not return tonight and all of Canada anxiously awaits his diagnosis.

Early in the second period, Sidney Crosby earned his first point of the night when he dished a sweet pass to Kris Letang who used a Billy Guerin screen to power home a shot over Halak’s glove hand. After Montreal closed to 3-2, the Pens’ grinders came up with a picturesque goal that proved to be the game-winner.

Gonchar started the exchange with a long outlet pass from his defensive zone. Tic-tac-toe passing from Pascal Dupuis to Cooke, back to Dupuis and finally to Craig Adams for the “keep your stick on the ice” re-direct opened the gap to two goals, 4-2, with 84 seconds remaining in the middle stanza.

A patient power play notched the fifth goal three minutes into the third when Crosby laid another beauty on the stick of Alex Goligoski who beat an awkwardly bent Halak. The Habs made it 5-3 and produced a little bit of sweat for Pittsburgh fans until Guerin slid home an empty netter that sealed the victory and put the Pens in front 1-0 in the series.

Carey Price, who relieved Halak in the third period, made three stops but was bailed out by two Penguin misfires on point-blank chances. The 22-year-old might start game two on Sunday, giving Halak a deserved – yet controversial – rest. It will be interesting to see what J. Martin is thinking.

As for the Pens, they must guard against complacency after a night when their hard work drew penalties and then their power play was phenomenal.

A lot of hockey left to be played in this series, but for now, Penguin nation feels pretty good. Let’s all hope Mr. Staal is ok and will dress for game two.

Interesting stats: Crosby had more hits (3) than shots (1). The Pens blocked 22 shots to Montreal’s 15. Each team had 30 hits, Chris Kunitz notched a game-high six.