Halak Rescues Habs; Series Tied


Well, now we know how Caps’ fans felt in the first round. The Pens were Halak-ed into submission Sunday afternoon, as the Montreal netminder stopped 38 shots to lead the visiting Canadiens to a 3-1 victory. The series heads to Canada tied 1-1.

Halak allowed Matt Cooke’s first-period goal, then pitched a shutout over the next 45 minutes to dash any hopes of a Pens’ series sweep. Mike Cammalleri scored two goals for Montreal.

The power play practically won Game 1 for the Pens, but it was a huge reason for their demise in Game 2. Pittsburgh went 0-for-3 with the man advantage, including two opportunities in the first four minutes of the third. The Habs, on the other hand, went 1-for-3 on the PP.

As a fan, it was a frustrating game to watch, to say the least. The Pens carried the play most of the second and third, but could not find a way to get the puck past Halak. NBC flashed a graphic that had the Pens with a 23-7 advantage in scoring chances midway through the third. Sounded about right to me.

Montreal, meanwhile, had a whopping 9 shots over the final two periods. Two of them went in. I’m not going to throw any blame toward M-A Fleury, who stopped 18 of 21 shots. You would have liked to see him stop Cammalleri’s goal late in the third, but he really didn’t have a chance at the first two.

You knew it was a rough game when Crosby shattered his stick on the Habs’ net then tossed the remnants in disgust. Not something you’d like to see from the team captain, but we’ll give the man a pass here. I thought the Pens had broken Halak in Game 1; obviously I was wrong.

Game Notes

  • Kennedy and Leopold returned to the lineup. The Pens certainly needed Kennedy, as Talbot moved off the second line to center the third. There’s no doubt Leopold’s a better player than Jay McKee, but perhaps the Pens should have kept McKee in the lineup for the time being. They haven’t lost with him in there. I know, hindsight’s 20-20.
  • Looking at the box score, something jumped out at me. Montreal essentially played the game with three lines. Mathieu Darche, Ben Maxwell and Andrei Kostitsyn each played under 1:45. That’s a lot of ice time for everybody else. There’s no way the Habs’ can continue to roll three lines throughout the series. Something to watch.
  • I’m still waiting for Alexei Ponikarovsky to have a big game. At this point, I’ll gladly take an above-average game.

Staal’s Absence
I had a feeling Jordan Staal’s injury in Game 1 was serious right at the moment it happened. My fears were later confirmed. The lineup now has a gaping hole at center and on the penalty kill, and will for the forseeable future. The good news: the line of Talbot-Cooke-Dupuis just might have been the Pens best on Sunday. The bad news: this team cannot replace #11 no matter how hard it tries. Here’s where team depth comes into play. Even with Staal out, the Pens dress 12 NHL-caliber skaters. It will be up to Talbot, Adams, etc. to rise to the occasion and fill the void as best they can until Staal returns.