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Canadiens come up empty in Game 3 loss

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens held the Penguins to three shots in the first period and 25 for the game, backing into a box in their defensive zone to block shooting lanes and suffocate scoring chances.

The Canadiens' strategy had one fundamental flaw.

It doesn't matter how well you play defensively if you don't score.

The Penguins exploited that weakness with third-period goals by Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis in a 2-0 victory over Montreal in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Tuesday night at Bell Centre.

It was the first time the Canadiens have been shut out at home in the playoffs since 1983.

"That's how you win games — scoring," Montreal right wing Brian Gionta said. "We did some good things. We've got to channel that, but we've got to get the job done scoring goals."

The Canadiens relied on another stifling show in their own zone and a strong performance by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who went 41 minutes, 16 seconds before giving up a goal. That came on a power play where their top penalty-killing defensemen were both in the penalty box, and Malkin took advantage with a one-timer from the right point.

"It was a game probably where the team that scored first had a good chance of winning," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said.

And a game where the Canadiens' patience was tested — or, better yet, equaled — by the Penguins. The first one to crack lost.

"They were very patient and willing to sit back," Montreal defenseman Hal Gill said. "You don't want to make mistakes. That's playoff hockey. One mistake can cost you the game."

Gill should know. He was called for holding with 11.7 seconds left in the second period.

He later was joined by shutdown partner Josh Gorges, who got a roughing penalty for his role in tussling with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang after the second period expired.

"That's no fun," Gill said. "That's disappointing. That's a sickening feeling, when you're in the box when they score. ... Company doesn't help."

Neither does a lack of scoring.

Montreal managed only 18 shots on goal, as another 18 attempts were blocked, and 13 missed the mark.

Mike Cammalleri, who tallied twice in the Game 2 victory and has eight playoff goals, missed wide on a first-period breakaway. Maxim Lapierre later hit the crossbar.

"Obviously, that's not the situation we want to be in," Gionta said. "They took advantage. They've got a good power play. But even at that point, it was still a 1-0 game down the stretch, and we had some good opportunities."

The Canadiens had several third-period scoring chances that were turned aside by Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I thought it was a tight game both ways," Cammalleri said. "They get the one power-play goal that sneaks in. Maybe if we get one of those. ...

"You've got to score goals to win hockey games. That's for sure."

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