Habs Goalie: Halak (L), Price
Opposition Goalie: Fleury (W)
Habs goalscorers: Subban Cammalleri, Gionta
Opposition goalscorers: Gonchar, Staal, Letang, Adams, Goligoski, Guerin
The play of the game all started with a nice little move by Malkin at our blue-line. That moved made Gionta's potential hip-check into an obvious trip and, with the diving police still in Washington, it meant a PP was coming the Pens' way. On that Power-Play we had the chance to impose our dominant PK, but, instead, I felt that one play would end up, for the worse, being the turning point of the game. It came when Pyatt's stick broke and he stayed there, useless, trying to kill. A team that is so good at 5-on-3 PK should be ready for this (it happens all the time), but, alas we weren't. I would make it a team policy that that player races to the bench either to sub or get a stick. The remaining 3 players would then play it as though it were a 5-on-3 for the 5-10 seconds that that player was gone. Instead, the Habs tried to play on for quite some time and stayed in their 5-on-4 configuration, despite being down two men. Pittsburgh exploited this and, at that point, took control of the game and of the series.
I am not a fan of the 2 penalties that Scott took, but was impressed with his 2 assists; the one on Cammalleri's goal in particular. While he wasn't taking penalties Gomez actually had a decent game in both ends, especially in the offensive zone. He has been better on the PK, but his 7 shots on net shows that he realizes that their goalie is as weak, if not weaker than Washington's.
I was waiting most of the last series for Gionta to step up and be a dominant player, but it never really came, not in long stints at least. Tonight, however, I saw signs that this may be more his type of series. Washington seemed to be a faster and more explosive team, whereas Pittsburgh is a bit grittier, a bit more North American. Whether that suits the Habs better is yet to be seen, but it at least seems like Gio likes it more. Like Scott he got into penalty trouble, but, also like his buddy, picked up 2 points.
It would seem that Mike's line (save him) missed the plane from Washington. That line, for the most part was only visible because of the missed chances and blunders. Mike's best moments actually came when he was on with other linemates, especially when he scored his goal; courtesy of Scott Gomez. His line will have to be better, but being worried that they won't seems like a childish reaction (Martin).
This kid is the real deal and he may have to be even more than that if Markov is gone for any length of time. Tonight he was very impressive as it seemed that every time he carried the puck up something good would come of it. He scored his first NHL goal early and that really set the tone. He seemed like the only player who didn't think that beating Washington had earned us a night off as he was playing with emotion, speed and grit. It may hurt Hamilton if we keep him up, but right now (Markov or not) can we afford not to?
I wouldn't go as far as saying that Hamrlik played an amazing game, but I will say that he played his best game of the playoffs. In my opinion he was certainly our second best D-Man and, who knows, that may have a lot to do with his new partners (O'Byrne, Subban). I thought that he was effective when he went up on the rush and was happy to see that he was only on for one goal against (the least of any Hab D-Man, other than Markov).
Poor old Jaro. He couldn't see much and when he could see the shots he looked like he was out of gas. Pulling him was the right move though, not because it was giving him a rest, but mostly because at that point him not in nets was our only chance to win. Price may have only faced 3 shots, but, believe it or not, that is the first game this year in which he has not let up at least a goal. I can't say he was spectacular as his dome-spot was secured after goal #5 anyway.
We started well, but then two incidents in the first threw us off and may have very negative implications as we move forward. First, Pyatt's stickless play on the PK may have taught the Pens that our killing isn't super-human after all. And, even worse, Markov going down could be the loss that we have feared, the loss that crippled us in last year's playoffs and this year's first half. The hit wasn't dirty, but when it comes from Matt Cooke you have to wonder if it was necessary. Hitting a team's best players at every opportunity clearly has its upsides, but you could see that the Habs, although presented with many chances, would not play that game. Maybe it is because we haven't had a player as dirty as Cooke in eons that I am forgetting what it is like, but, injury to Markov or not, I see no point for players like him in the league. From that point on the Habs looked lost - lost on the PK without him, lost on the PP without him and, of course, lost at ES without him. PK, who may not fully comprehend Marky's importance, seemed the least phased and may be the one player that can fill his skates the best. He did well tonight, but can he play to that level in every game?
The rest of the game seemed very odd to me. Kostitsyn was being punished for having some off moments. Even when we needed a goal Pyatt (who at his best offensively offers nothing to write home about) was being favoured. Pouliot, who has looked like our worst forward this playoffs even doubled Andrei in ice-time. All the line switches were weird to me as now is not the time to change something that is going so well. And, the oddest thing, was the spreading around of ice-time as though the players needed rest. I have news for you, Martin, if the players are tired now what are we going to do about playing 3 more games in the next 6 days? Never, ever, give up on a game, because you never know, this may have been our best chance at a win in the whole series.