Marc-Andre Fleury raised his lifetime record to 15-5 in games following a playoff loss, Dan Bylsma raised his to 10-2, Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang provided the offense, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won a hard-fought 2-1 battle against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Fleury was clearly the story on Saturday night, following 48 hours of ridicule from the always-fickle Pittsburgh fans after his disappointing performance in Game Four. But no one can complain about MAF's play in this contest, as he was only a fluky goal in the last minute away from pitching his second 2-0 shutout of the series.
Beyond Fleury, the story was the defense, which also doubled as the Penguins' offense on Saturday. Both goals and four of the six individual points came from the D, which combined with Fleury to create a nearly-impenetrable atmosphere for the Canadiens, whose only offense came from a Mike Cammalleri goal with 31 seconds left in regulation.
As far as the offense went, Evgeni Malkin played a great all-around game, but had only an assist to show for it. Sidney Crosby was limited to one shot on goal, as his goalless streak continued in the series. Max Talbot, Jordan Staal, and Bill Guerin were all held without shots. And we can't even point the finger at chronic underperformers Alexei Ponikarovsky or Ruslan Fedotenko, who were both scratched. If this team wants to go even further into the playoffs, this is a unit that simply has to provide more production.
But the aftermath of a win is never a time for criticism. This was an extremely challenging game that took every ounce of effort from the Pens, and they pulled it out. I have a hard time nitpicking about much of anything. Fleury played better, Letang redeemed himself, and Guerin and Mike Rupp provided a presence in front of the net that had clearly been lacking. Because of that, the Pens sit just 60 minutes away from a third consecutive trip to the conference finals on Monday night, and there's no good reason to complain about that.
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