The Montreal Canadiens took on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Playoffs for the first time since 2010. Everyone remembers how that went. With that being said, let’s get into the action.
The Saturday night matchup started at an extremely fast pace with both teams, in at the first few minutes, trading a pair of high quality scoring chances. The only issue was either the lack of finish at one end compared to Carey Price shutting the door at the other. You could see he was really dialled into the game right from the get-go.
The game went on for three minutes without a whistle and it was very exciting to watch. With eight minutes left in the frame, Montreal finally got the game’s first goal when Brett Kulak took a shot at the net that literally hit Jesperi Kotkaniemi as he was being checked to the ice and the puck went in. Kotkaniemi would be credited with the goal.
Even with Montreal leading, the Penguins kept throwing pucks on net and the Habs were being outshot 13-3 at that point. With five minutes left in the period, the Canadiens got their first power play opportunity when Marcus Pettersson was called for interference when he levelled Nick Suzuki.
The power play was a bit better compared to last time out against Toronto with the best opportunity coming when Brendan Gallagher took a slap-shot on net and Tomas Tatar whiffed on the rebound just before an open Pittsburgh cage.
Within just a few minutes later, the Penguins had a power play chance of their own when Philip Danault was sent off for holding. Montreal managed to kill off the penalty and the period ended with the Habs up 1-0.
We enter the second period of play with both teams keeping up the speed of the game. It was becoming a great game to watch and we were curious to see if the Penguins would make a comeback or if Montreal could keep it going.
Seven minutes into the period, Nick Suzuki won a puck battle on the boards and managed to go two-on-one against the Penguins. In doing so, he decided to take a great shot that went top shelf on Matt Murray to give Montreal a 2-0 lead.
After that, the Pittsburgh Penguins would push to get back into the game. They finally got on the scoreboard when Sidney Crosby managed to get a rebound shot that went off Price’s skate to cut the Habs lead to one. That goal seem to have invigorated Pittsburgh and they continued to push for the equalizer.
At the eleven minute mark of the period, the Pittsburgh Penguins would get another chance on the man advantage when Jonathan Drouin was called for holding. Bryan Rust would make the Canadiens pay, scoring a power play goal to tie it up at two when he got a puck past Carey Price, standing in front of net with a puck that just trickled in.
Unfortunately, the night got worse for Drouin as he got called for another penalty with four minutes left in the game’s middle frame. Luckily, the Habs were able to kill it off and the second period ended with the score tied at two.
This would make way for the third period, and right off the draw, Pittsburgh had a great chance to take the lead, but once again, Price would slam the door and keep the game tied and Montreal in the game. 30 seconds into the period, the Habs got another penalty when Philip Danault was sent off for slashing.
Not even 30 seconds into the penalty, things got worse for Montreal as Ben Chiarot was sent off for high sticking. This gave the Penguins a golden chance to pull ahead with the lead on a five-on-three opportunity. Luckily, the Habs managed to kill it off and then had a chance of their own on the man advantage. This of course was the case when Jared Mccan was sent to the box for high sticking.
Discipline wasn’t a factor in this game as both teams seemed to be getting called left and right. Six minutes into the period, Paul Byron took a penalty for interference and gifted the Penguins with another chance to break the tie. Both goalies were standing tall in this one and were coming up big for their teams.
With three minutes left in the frame, the Pittsburgh Penguins were awarded a penalty shot when Connor Sheary picked off a Jordan Weal pass and went on a breakaway en route for the net. Despite his effort to score, the Canadiens netminder would make the stop. There was a slight hook seen on the play and that’s what led to the questionable penalty shot. Price would once again stand tall as Sheary would shoot the puck wide of the net.
The third period would end 2-2, this forcing the game into sudden death overtime.
Into the extra frame we go and the main question being asked was who would win it for their respective hockey club. Montreal would get the faster start, applying pressure to the Penguins early on. Three minutes into the extra frame, the penalty troubles continued for Montreal as Philip Danault was sent off for hooking. This would be the third time that he was called for a penalty on the night.
The Penguins had a chance to end it on the man advantage, but Carey Price who looked in playoff form, made some brilliant saves to keep his team in the game. Brendan Gallagher had a great chance when he was in front of the net, but couldn’t get the puck in the net past Matt Murray.
On the next play, Jonathan Drouin picked off a pass in their zone and went in on a breakaway, but was tripped on the play. This time, the Montreal Canadiens were awarded a penalty shot of their own. Drouin would go in on Murray, but unfortunately, when he attempted the backhand, he’d come up just short, going wide of the net.
It was more of the same after that, going back-and-forth with both teams pushing hard to end it. With six minutes left in the game, the Canadiens finally ended the game when Jeff Petry unravelled a great wrist shot that beat Murray low to seal the victory. This would give the Habs a 1-0 lead in the series over Pittsburgh.
This game truly had everything and was probably the most exciting hockey game that we’ve seen so far. The second game goes Monday at 8:00pm and we will have to see how the Pittsburgh Penguins respond.
The game is available for viewing on Sportsnet Ontario and NBCSN. It will also be carried in Canadiens region on TVA Sports for viewing in French. The game can be heard via radio on TSN 690 and 98.5fm.