Short-handed Penguins lose to Canadiens
MONTREAL — Without one of their go-to shootout guys, the Penguins failed to score over five rounds in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Thursday night.
Center Sidney Crosby (mild concussion) was not available. He is their regular No. 2 shooter in the skill competition implemented to determine an NHL regular-season winner in games tied after a five-minute overtime period.
This game was tied, 1-1. An early goal by Penguins right wing Arron Asham, his fifth, was answered near the midpoint of the second period by Canadiens left wing Benoit Pouliot.
He was the Canadiens player who bested Penguins goalie Brent Johnson in Round 5 of a shootout. No other player scored in the shootout for either team.
The five shootout saves by Montreal goalie Carey Price, who made 31 saves through regulation, afforded the Canadiens their first victory in 13 games when allowing the opening goal.
"The second and third (periods) — they dictated the game," Asham said, adding that the Penguins shouldn't use the absence of Crosby and left wing Matt Cooke (personal reasons) "as an excuse."
"They made smart plays, got the puck deep. They're strong on the forecheck. We weren't making smart plays (in the defensive zone)."
That sounds a lot like the recipe Montreal used in a second-round playoff upset of the Penguins last spring.
The Penguins (26-12-4, 56 points) earned a point on the road and are 6-1-1 in the second of games on consecutive nights.
Coach Dan Bylsma credited their penalty kill, which held the Canadiens without a goal on five chances.
Montreal was afforded 3:46 of unanswered power-play time near the midpoint of the third period — two full minutes at a 5-on-3 advantage because of costly delay-of-game penalties.
Johnson and defenseman Paul Martin each cleared puck into the crowd from the defensive zone to draw the penalties.
The Penguins allowed only one shot in all of that power-play time for the Canadiens, but winger Craig Adams said his club did a poor job in the transition game.
"We were controlling the game, then we made it a 50-50 game after that," he said.
This was the Penguins first game at Montreal since losing Game 6 of a second-round playoff series here last May. They went on to lose Game 7 of that series at Civic Arena, a defeat that ended their run as defending Stanley Cup champions.
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