Canadiens' game plan halts Pens in Game 2
Call it the rope-a-dope or Capital punishment.
Just don't call it a fluke.
The Penguins got a taste of the defensive strategy that is suddenly the talk of the NHL playoffs, dominating the battle for puck possession but not the war for quality scoring opportunities against the Montreal Canadiens, who evened a second-round series in a 3-1 victory Sunday by executing the plan that fueled their stunning upset of Washington.
Much like the top-seeded Capitals in that series, the Penguins seemingly possessed the puck for immeasurable stretches yesterday in Game 2. But, they were unable to generate a large number of top-tier scoring opportunities against goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 38 of 39 shots.
"There's a lot of people in this room who care very much and are willing to play whatever way we figure is the best way we're going to find a way to win," said Montreal winger Mike Cammalleri, who scored twice in Game 2 — his seventh and eighth playoff goals.
The Canadiens claim they didn't sense any frustration from Penguins players, even though Sidney Crosby broke a stick across the Montreal net and Evgeni Malkin looked more irritated as the game progressed.
Crosby and Malkin, after scoring nine goals in six games against Ottawa, have been silenced to a combined three assists through two games against the Canadiens. They were held without a point in Game 2.
"Those are two of the best players in the world," Montreal center Scott Gomez said. "(The Penguins) won Game 7 in Detroit to win the Stanley Cup. They aren't going to get frustrated yet."
Gomez, for one, isn't interested in finding out if the Canadiens' current strategy will eventually frustrate the Penguins' dynamic duo. The bait-and-block strategy with which Montreal appears so comfortable doesn't particularly appeal to the former Cup winner with New Jersey.
"The puck was in our zone too much tonight, and that's dangerous against the Penguins," he said. "Going back to Montreal, I definitely think we need to start producing more offense."
Montreal's plan of attack against the Penguins appeared fairly simple. After taking a 2-1 lead in the second period thanks to the first of two Cammalleri goals, the Canadiens seldom pushed for more offense. Instead, they committed to having five players back defensively at all times.
The Penguins have struggled against the "trap" this season, and Game 2 was no exception after Montreal went ahead. They appeared puzzled in the final two periods, frequently turning the puck over at the Montreal blue line and failing to win battles for the puck in front of Halak.
A Crosby turnover late in the third led to Cammalleri's second goal.
Although the Penguins did outshoot Montreal, 30-5, at one point during a stretch in the second and third periods, most of those opportunities were fruitless and from the perimeter. Much like against the Capitals, Halak had little trouble with those shots.
"I think the whole team was a lot better tonight then in Game 1, including me," Halak said. "Were they frustrated• I don't know about that. I just think we played better."
The Penguins certainly looked frustrated, but one of their veterans suggested that slow and steady will ultimately win the race.
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar's thoughts sounded similar to words uttered from Washington's locker room during the first round. Of course, in the postseason, the Penguins have a considerably more impressive track record than the Capitals, so time will tell.
"We just have to keep doing what we're doing," Gonchar said. "Nobody told us we were going to win four straight. We just need more shots and more traffic in front of the net."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Some of the top prospects in Penguins system to be in town for camp
- Penguins are saying captain Crosby’s right wrist may need surgery
- Based on glowing recommendation, Pens hire Agnew as assistant
- Penguins re-sign Megna, Samuelsson to 1-year deals