Ah, the shootout. It is one of the most exciting elements hockey – admit it, sometimes you hope no one scores in overtime – but it can also be the most disappointing.
Unfortunately, the latter was the case last night for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They played an incredible game in Montreal under some unusual circumstances, but ultimately could not get past goaltender Carey Price in the shootout, losing 2-1 to the Canadiens.
Things were a little jumbled for the Pens coming into this game. Captain Sidney Crosby had flown back to Pittsburgh to be evaluated by team doctors for an upper-body injury he sustained the night before in an 8-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lighting. It has just been reported that he will miss at least a week with a mild concussion. Left-winger Matt Cooke also returned to Pittsburgh to attend to personal issues.
This certainly left a huge gap in the Pens lineup, and Head Coach Dan Bylsma made some changes to compensate. Mark Letestu took Crosby’s place in between Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. Jordan Staal’s line remained intact; he centered Evgeni Malkin on the right and Tyler Kennedy on the left. The remaining forwards mixed into the final two lines, with defenseman Deryk Engelland taking a few shifts as a forward as well.
Crosby’s absence allowed the Habs to focus their defensive energy solely on the Staal line. He and Malkin, already proving to be a dangerous duo, absorbed a good deal of Montreal’s physical play.
Both players were indeed held pointless, with the Pens’ only goal coming from Arron Asham in the first period. He led the team with five shots and five hits. The assists went to defensemen Ben Lovejoy and Alex Goligoski, both of whom have recently stood out. Lovejoy now has three points in his last two games and Goligoski has logged five.
Montreal’s Benoit Pouliot tied the game in the second.
While the first two periods felt pretty balanced momentum-wise, the third looked like it would be the Pens’ undoing. Goligoski got called for hooking, and goalie Brent Johnson was whistled for sending the puck over the glass only 22 seconds later, forcing the Pens to kill a lengthy 5-on-3. Less than 90 seconds later, defenseman Paul Martin took another delay of game penalty.
“I kind of feel like we have to lead the league in that category; I’m not sure we take that statistic,” Bylsma joked to the media in reference to the Pens’ frequent delay of game calls. “But in both cases we go to clear pucks that are not flat on the ice, and the guys are trying to clear them down the ice…and they take off on them and go over the glass.”
The Pens’ penalty kill was put to the test, and it passed with flying colors. Right-winger Craig Adams was almost literally a brick wall, using his body to stop multiple shots.
“We’ve got a lot of great players on our team (who) are playing some great penalty kills…everyone’s doing a lot of great things,” Staal told the press after the game.
By the end of overtime the Pens had fired 32 shots to the Canadiens’ 23, proving that changes in their offense were not a hindrance.
Both goaltenders excelled, and the team gives a lot of credit to Johnson.
“Johnny had an unbelievable game and he made some key saves for us,” said Staal, “especially on that penalty kill when we really needed it.”
Ultimately, it came down to Price making one more save than Johnson, a disappointing end to an impressive effort.