The Montreal Canadiens have struggled for most of the season, despite a coaching change and amazing amounts of young talent in their lineup. This young talent, along with their league-leading penalty kill, made it difficult for the Pens to capitalize on chances Tuesday night. James Neal scored his career-high 28th goal of the season, and Marc-Andre Fleury put up a stellar 28-save performance in the shootout loss.
After a penalty-free, scoreless first period, the Canadiens’ Lars Eller laid a hit on Fleury that landed him in the box for the first Pens power play of the game. The Pens couldn’t convert, and spent most of their PK time defending against shorthanded scoring chances. The Habs got on the board first, on a breakaway wrist shot by Louis Leblanc with just over eight minutes to go in the second period. Pittsburgh might have been down by two going into the intermission, if not for a seemingly impossible glove save by Fleury on Erik Cole with 1:30 left. Montreal held a slight edge in shots going into the break, 24-22.
The Pens had to kill a penalty to Craig Adams to start the third period, but Joe Vitale sneaked a shot around Tomas Kaberle on a breakaway that went off the skate of Pascal Dupuis and behind Carey Price to tie it, 1-1.
The Habs brought it back again two minutes later. Lars Eller’s wrist shot rang off the post, off of Fleury’s numbers and in, to put Montreal up 2-1. The Pens retaliated on a nifty wraparound pass from behind the net by Evgeni Malkin to James Neal, who wristed it past Price to tie it, 2-2. Both teams created plenty of chances in the final furious minutes and through the overtime, including a tricky glove-side shot on Price by Neal. Both goaltenders stood tall in the final minutes. Following a last-second scrum between PK Subban and Kris Letang, the game moved to a shootout.
The first Montreal goal came in the first round on a wrister by Rene Borque. Following misses by Letang and Max Pacioretty, Malkin put Pittsburgh on the board with a spin-o-rama shot that danced by Price’s outstretched toe. Lars Eller was next to score for the Canadiens, but Chris Kunitz evened it again with his usual deke through the five-hole. Tomas Plekanec sent a hard snap over Fleury’s shoulder, but Jason Williams couldn’t get his shot around Price’s pad, and the Habs took the 3-2 win.
The Penguins next game is Saturday, Feb. 11, against the Winnipeg Jets. The puck drops at 2:00 p.m. at Consol Energy Center.
1) Tomas Plekanec
2) Louis Leblanc
3) Carey Price
PIT: Pascal Dupuis (12), James Neal (28)
MTL: Louis Leblanc (3), Lars Eller (11)
PIT: Joe Vitale, Evgeni Malkin, Paul Martin
MTL: Andrei Kostitsyn, Chris Campoli, Alexei Emelin
In the Net:
PIT: Marc-Andre Fleury (L) 28-30
MTL: Carey Price (W) 32-34