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Canadiens even up series with Penguins

MONTREAL — It took a while, but on Thursday night some of the old Montreal Forum's fabled ghosts finally arrived at Bell Centre.

The Penguins are coming back here Monday, when they will hope to close out the Montreal Canadiens.

They'll need better luck than they received in Game 4 of a second-round Stanley Cup playoff series, which the Penguins lost, 3-2, on a bounce of a puck that can only be considered a fluke.

"Yeah, it was," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said of the winning marker scored by Canadiens winger Brian Gionta at 3:40 of the third period — only 1:33 after center Maxim Lapierre's wraparound tally on Montreal's 10th shot erased a 2-1 Penguins lead.

Those goals flipped this best-of-seven series, which now stands even at 2-2 with Game 5 at Mellon Arena on Saturday night.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby, without a goal in this series and none since Game 5 of Round 1, described the words his teammates shared with French Canadian-born defenseman Kris Letang, who declined comment after Gionta's centering pass with no Canadiens player in the area deflected off Letang and past Fleury.

"You tell him not to worry about it, but it's easier said than done, obviously," Crosby said. "We still had a lot of time at that point."

A lot of chances, too: Five shots on two power plays; a near-miss by Crosby from 17 feet with 10:29 left; and center Evgeni Malkin's wide-left shot attempt from 18 feet on a breakaway with 3:56 remaining.

The ghosts would have none of those chances going in the Penguins' favor.

Hey, it's been awhile since they had a club like this to help out. The Canadiens, a final-weekend playoff entrant as the No. 8 seed, are two wins over the defending Stanley Cup champions from reaching their first conference final since 1993.

The Stanley Cup hasn't been belonged to this hockey-mad city since, and the Canadiens haven't really sniffed a deep playoff run after leaving the fabled Forum for Bell Centre in 1996.

Nothing about their performance through 40 minutes in this game suggested these Canadiens would threaten to turn around that trend.

Goals by forward Max Talbot and left wing Chris Kunitz staked the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the first period to answer an opening-goal by Canadiens center Tom Pyatt at 2:34.

With 20 minutes remaining in its season — unless the Canadiens really fancied another 3-1 series deficit - Montreal had registered only nine shots.

"It was a lot of looking each other in the eye and knowing that no one really brought the effort they need to bring," Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill said of the second-period intermission. "Coach (Jacques Martin) brought it up, but I think it was more every guy in the room looking at themselves and saying: 'I've got a lot more to give.'"

They looked like it in the third period, posting 16 shots after attempting only 20 in the previous two periods.

"You have to deal with the momentum shifts, the adversity, the feel of the building and things like that," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "It's a tough place to do that in, and they did get the momentum by getting two goals close together and getting that lead.

"It was made difficult by the building, but the Canadiens kept the pressure on as well."

Bylsma was talking about Game 4, but that statement could also describe what the Canadiens have done this series.

Pressure: It's a best-of-three with two games at Mellon Arena.

The Penguins move on if they hold at home, and fortunately for them, getting to Pittsburgh from Montreal is no easy task these days — even for ghosts.

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