The Habs are now three for three in spoiling opponents’ home openers as on Tuesday, the Canadiens skated into Pittsburgh and came out with a 3-2 victory, extending their win streak to four straight games.
The Canadiens made one lineup change for this game as Carey Price returned to the net after being given a night off in Ottawa. This meant that Paul Byron, Greg Pateryn, and Jarred Tinordi all will have to wait a bit longer (at least) before making their season debuts.
The first period saw both teams get several quality scoring chances despite a very low shot total. Among the misses was a P.K. Subban crossbar while Patric Hornqvist had a tap-in broken up by a strong back check from David Desharnais.
Not everything failed to hit the net though as the Habs got on the board first, just as they did in the first three games of the season. Max Pacioretty snapped a long shot through a bit of a screen past Marc-Andre Fleury to extend his streak to four straight games with a point to start the season. The shots on goal were only 7-4 for Montreal but the number of legitimate scoring chances were higher for both sides.
While we can’t specifically say what was said between periods in Pittsburgh’s dressing room, it’s fairly safe to assume that the message was something along the lines of ‘Get the puck to the net.’ Suffice it to say, the message got through and the Penguins had several shots and chances in the early minutes of the second.
Montreal was a victim of some bad luck early in the period. A Nathan Beaulieu point shot went off Dale Weise and then directed back towards the point. Beaulieu decided to pinch which turned out to be the wrong decision as Beau Bennett collected the puck, skated down the right wing and fired one past Price stick side to tie the game.
Three minutes later, Pittsburgh took a too many men penalty and the Canadiens took advantage as Pacioretty picked up his second of the night, sniping a perfect shot past a screened Fleury. However, that lead didn’t last long as just over a minute later, Kris Letang picked up his first goal of the year on a knuckling point shot that Price appeared to misjudge. There were quite a few chances after that but nothing more got past either goalie in the period; the shots in the second were 15-12 for the Penguins.
The third period saw the Habs do what Pittsburgh did to them in the second, attack early and often. It worked too, although the play was a bit controversial. It appeared that David Desharnais got away with a trip on Sergei Plotnikov at the Canadiens’ blueline but it went uncalled, sending Montreal on the attack. Dale Weise’s pass went long but Desharnais corralled it and waited for Tomas Fleischmann to get open who promptly fired one past Fleury to give the Habs their third one goal lead of the game.
Pittsburgh had some opportunities down the stretch, including a man advantage on an iffy Devante Smith-Pelly penalty. However, Montreal had the best chance on that as they had a shorthanded 3-on-1. In the dying minutes, Pittsburgh threw out a line of Malkin-Crosby-Kessel (a pretty talented trio) but they were unable to get the equalizer as the Canadiens held on for the win.
Price made 31 saves in the win while Fleury turned aside 27 Montreal shots. Each team had a pair of power plays (the first of which was penalty shortened). The Habs were one for two while Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on either of their opportunities.
HW Habs’ 3 Stars of the Night:
1st Star: Max Pacioretty – There are nights where the first star is hard to pick. This isn’t one of those. Pacioretty was dominant throughout the game. He was a catalyst offensively and made some good plays in his own end as well. The captain is off to a very strong start to his season.
Stats: 2 goals, +1 rating, 4 shots, 2 hits, 19:52 TOI
2nd Star: Carey Price – He wasn’t too busy in the first period but he was called upon to make a lot of key stops as the game went on. His save with just over a couple of minutes left on Sidney Crosby was a deflator for the Penguins.
Stats: 31 saves on 33 shots, 2.00 GAA, .939 SV%
3rd Star: Tomas Fleischmann – He got the game winner which has to get him on the list. Even without that, this was his best regular season game in a Montreal uniform. He had a few chances and was strong in his own end.
Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 3 shots, 14:15 TOI
Honourable Mention: David Desharnais – He didn’t play much (less than anyone else on the team not named Weise) but Desharnais had a very good night at both ends of the rink. He set up quite a few chances and saved what appeared to be a likely goal back in the first.
Stats: 1 assist, -1 rating, 2 PIMS, 1 shot, 1 giveaway, 1 takeaway, 11:50 TOI
Stat of the Night: This was the first time in Sidney Crosby’s career that he failed to record a point in a home game against Montreal.