Pens control center ice on power plays
Only 48 hours after producing one of the finest seven-game penalty killing displays in NHL history, the Montreal Canadiens permitted four Penguins power-play goals in four consecutive opportunities.
"That's a team with a great power play," Montreal rookie PK Subban said. "We obviously need to be a lot better."
Montreal killed 32 of 33 Washington power plays during the first round, a stunning statistic by any measure, especially when considering the Capitals led the NHL in regular season power-play percentage.
The Penguins clearly figured out whatever it was that Montreal did well in the Caps series.
Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski scored with the man advantage. All three of the goals came from the center of the ice, which was not a coincidence.
Montreal, after all, was dealing with a different style of power play against the Capitals. Washington prefers an east-west style on the power play, with Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin looking for one-time shots. The Penguins' power play used a completely different approach.
"They have a few more weapons than Washington," Montreal forward Brian Gionta said. "They just have so many guys who are great passers. It makes it hard to defend."
Gonchar evened the score in the first period with a blast from the center point. The goal showcased a simple formula, with Bill Guerin planting a screen and Gonchar firing a hard shot on net.
Later in the first period, the Penguins scored again with the man advantage, already doubling Washington's number of power-play goals in the previous series. Staal, leading the second unit, cut violently to the center of the ice and buried a wrist shot past the previously impenetrable Jaroslav Halak.
"That's just way too many power play goals to give up," Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges said. "It's not good enough on our part."
In the second period, Sidney Crosby worked his magic, muscling his way onto the puck on the right wing boards and firing a terrific pass that found Letang - where else• - in the middle of the ice. He blew a wrist shot past Halak.
In the third period, the power play struck once again when Crosby slid a beauty of a pass through the slot to Alex Goligoski, who had busted through the back door to beat Halak, who was pulled from the game minutes later.
Playing against Crosby, who now leads the playoffs with 16 points, was an eye-opening experience for the Canadiens, especially the rookie defenseman.
"He's the best player in the world," Subban said. "And he made a lot of great plays on the power play. We need to do a better job."
The Canadiens could be without defenseman Andrei Markov for the next game. He left after receiving a clean hit from Matt Cooke in the first period and appeared to sustain a serious lower-body injury.
Gill was quick to react to his former teammate's hit.
"The guy has a track record," Gill said.
After being told that the hit was clean, Gill immediately apologized to Cooke through the media.