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The Pittsburgh Penguins blew a 2-1 lead that they held for 36 minutes, self-combusting over a 1:33 span in the third period in dropping a 3-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.

The Pens were all over the Habs early, quickly digging out of an early 1-0 hole with first-period goals from Max Talbot and Chris Kunitz, the first for each in this series. After two periods, Pittsburgh had a ridiculous 25-9 edge in shots, and a 3-1 series lead looked like a distinct possibility that was 20 minutes away. But things went sideways in the third period, when Maxim Lapierre scored a wraparound goal at the 2:07 mark and a Brian Gionta pass went off Kris Letang's skate and past Marc-Andre Fleury a little more than a minute and a half later. The Canadiens snagged a 3-2 lead that they would not surrender the rest of the game, and the series now shortens to a three-game variety.

The Penguins threw everything they had at Jaroslav Halak, but the tough Canadiens goalie responded by stopping each of the 20 shots he saw over the last two periods for the game's first-star honors. In all, the Montreal netminder made 33 stops, including more than a few of the brilliant variety. 

Conversely, Marc-Andre Fleury gave up an admittedly soft goal to start the game, one I'm sure he'd love to have back, and a deflection off a teammate's skate to account for two of the three goals allowed. But as I state all too often, you win as a team, you lose as a team. Whether Fleury is brilliant or average from game to game, the fact remains that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for just one goal in this series, a number that simply boggles the mind. The Pens are facing an opponent playing with house money and absolutely nothing to lose, mostly because no one expected them to get out of the first round. I think the Penguins will still win the series, but it's certainly going to take everything they've got.

As far as the injured Flightless Birds, Jordan Staal somehow ended up in the lineup and was a -1 with two shots on goal. Bill Guerin and Mike Rupp were both scratched due to injuries, a fact that no doubt had an effect on the lack of traffic in front of the Montreal net. But I strongly hesitate to blame this loss in any way on the guys who were banged up or absent from the lineup. This win was in the palm of the Penguins' hands, and they let it slip away. As a result, a rejuvenated Montreal team will come calling to Mellon Arena on Saturday night in a critical Game Five, and how the Penguins will respond could very well define the way this series will conclude.

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Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I hate to sound like Mr. Negativity, but I can't get thoughts of the Islanders in 93 out of my head.

I'm going to go vomit for an hour or so, maybe then I'll feel better.

Someone Somewhere said...

Not the best game I have ever watched from Kris LeTang.

Koz said...

The Pens kinda are who we thought they were right now.

You can see it's all there, the ability to dominate, but they play inconsistently. Fleury shines one minute but is still prone to too many stinkers. The X factor right now is Hal Gil and Josh Gorges bottling up the 2 Headed Monster. My wife noticed these guys are being heralded like the two Bash Brothers in the Mighty Ducks movies, but they are really earning it.

I've got faith in Sid to break through, I just wish he didn't test my faith so much.

Also, Geno on breakaways makes me sad. :(

The Mad Bubbler said...

Pens lose, Pirates win, and Big Ben didn't rape anybody. Must be opposite night in Pittsburgh...

Unknown said...

@Mad Bubbler.. Its BIZARRO PITTSBURGH!!! :)

Someone Somewhere said...

Did anyone else notice that guy in the ad behind Fleury's left shoulder grew a beard between the first and second period?

Chip said...

Gologioski is the scariest defensemen since Whitney was here. He literally panics and turns over the puck any time he's pressured. Offensively, he does some nice stuff but I wouldn't let him anywhere near the ice in even-man situations.

Very very depressing loss tonight. The way the team came out flying with tons of great scoring chances, I thought they'd can 3-4 goals easy. But it's all set ups and no finishes.

Steve said...

Chip, I agree and have been saying it for weeks now. Goligoski flat out sucks and he's a cancer in his own end. Even offensively he can't, or won't one-time pucks and is easily taken off the puck at the point. As much as I dislike Whitney, I'd rather have him than Goligoski.

Gonchar didn't do himself any favors in my opinion of him last nite either. Twice in the final seconds he missed the net by a mile and the last one so badly it cleared the zone. Same with Letang, but that's almost expected of him now, so why mention it.

Anonymous said...

Not looking good for the Pinguinos. Crosby is being shut down by Gill, who we shouldn't have let go in the first place and he hasn't scored in Montreal since his rookie year.

They also don't need to be playing extended an extended series, especially when Boston is ready to sweep Philly and sit for about a week.

Brian said...

I noticed the ad, too. I remember during the Washington series seeing it with a beard. Then I was surprised a few nights ago to see it cleanly shaven, only to have a beard in the 2nd and 3rd. Pretty neat.

Unknown said...

My cousin and I were talking before the game last night. Knowing my less-than admirable feelings about Letang, he said Tanger would score the game winner. I said he would choke.

How did we both end up being right??

okel dokel said...

This team always thinks they can "turn it on" at any one moment. What they do not seem to realize is they also can "turn it off" with just as much ease.

They are not working like they need to, especially with some of the guys being out.

I thought they did a good job in game one of "pushing" the Montreal shell towards the net thus minimizing their ability to control the traffic in front of the net.

Sometimes I think they do too good a job of cycling and become so enamored with their ability to do it they forget the objective of the game is too score.

Steve said...

Yup, they get 3 guys in working down low and never do anything with the puck other than, well...keeping it bottled up behind the goal. Montreal sends 1 guy behind, 2 in front and they've gotten goals from it in every game. Even on the rare times that a pass is made from behind the net, the forward is standing there with his stick "not" on the ice and no scoring chance is created.

With every Canadian player collapsed in deep, you would think just once on of the Pens defensmen would chip in a little and maybe give the forwards working down low an outlet to pass to put on net.

Doesn't happen, they're too afraid of getting caught out of position even though there's 50 feet of ice between them and the puck, or any potential breakout going the other way. That's how as poor a defensemen as Goligoski is, he can be a plus 4. Good for him, a meaningless stat to go along with his meaningless play.

Cousin Eddy said...

I honestly believe that game four of the series was the best game the Penguins have played thus far in the playoffs. I have been watching hockey my entire life, and I know when I see a great effort out of a team. For some one to say that "They are not working like they need to" is a statement of poor judgement that only displays their lack of hockey knowledge.

The Pens worked, and worked hard that entire game. Hell, in my opinion they dominated that game aside from the 1:33 span where the Habs scored two quick ones.

It's very obvious that Halak is back to being the same type of goalie that he was in the first round against Washington. He's tough to beat, and it's also very evident that the Montreal Canadiens do not play like an 8 seed. It's gonna be a long series that I can see going either way. The only advantage that Pittsburgh has is home ice in games 5 and 7.

And I can't write this without commenting about the Belle Centre. It is hands down, the loudest building the NHL. The loudest that I have ever heard the igloo was last year in game 6 of the Finals, but the Belle Centre was twice as loud as that once the puck was cleared out of danger in the waning seconds. We are playing a team and a fanbase that believes they have what it takes to take down the champs.

All the Pens can do is keep working. From a coaching standpoint not much needs to be changed. They're doing a great job of getting chances, and they are especially doing a great job of getting the puck in deep and getting behind the defense. That's the style that the Penguins play and excel at. Not much else needs to be said...

okel dokel said...

@ Cousin Eddy

Kiss my ass Sir! I know more about hockey than you have forgotten.

The best game they played in the play offs? Perhaps we watched a different third period. They were out worked, out muscled and spent a great deal of the period with their sticks in the air and not on the ice.

This team has done a poor job all year of holding leads. Why was that oh great zenmaster of Hockey?

Disco Dan had this to say yesterday, "I think we were good in Game 4 and maybe better than we have been in other games in terms of getting to the inside. We were close to second chance opportunities...we have to keep fighting to get those opportunities. Our focus needs to be on second chance opportunities. We have to get there with more bodies and more pucks and not look for outside or rush plays and not try to to take guys one-on-one."

It seems as if he agrees with both of our assessments of the game. Plain and simple they were outworked in the third period. Two more "best game of the playoffs" like Thursday's game and they will be setting up tee times.

Thanks Cousin Eddy for dropping the knowledge, or should I call you Toe Blake.