After an impressive start on a four game home stand with a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers the Canadiens were unable to come away with any other victories. Fortunately for the Canadiens they still hold the 8th and final playoff spot.
The game started poorly for the Canadiens after a defensive meltdown the Penguins resident Canadiens killer John LeClair fed a pass to Eric Boguniecki who beat David Aebischer who was left defenceless by Craig Rivet and Sheldon Souray. Things went from bad to worse for the Canadiens when less than thirty seconds after the Boguniecki goal Mathieu Dandenault received an interference penalty. On the subsequent Penguins power play David Aebischer was caught attempting to retrieve his dropped stick when Ryan Malone banked the shot off the out of position Canadiens goaltender for seventeenth goal of the season, John LeClair picked up an assist on the goal as well.
Momentum changed when Francis Bouillon laid out Penguins winger Niklas Nordgren behind the Canadiens net. Bouillon proceeded to carry the puck the length of the ice and fed a pass to Jan Bulis who buried his career best seventeenth goal of the season. Less then two minutes later the Canadiens fourth line of Mike Ribeiro, Garth Murray and Aaron Downey caused havoc in the Penguins zone and Craig Rivet prevented a Penguins clearing attempt and rapidly fired the puck towards the Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray deflected the puck and erased the Penguins lead with his third career NHL goal. The Canadiens continued to gain momentum on their first power play of the evening via a to many man on the ice penalty to the Penguins, when Sheldon Souray ripped a slap shot top corner to give the Canadiens their first lead of the game. Ribeiro and Richard Zednik set up the goal with Mark Streit providing a screen high in the slot. There was yet another momentum shift in the first period after Aebischer made a spectacular toe save on Josef Melichar’s shot that was deflected just a few feet in front of Aebischer. Dandenault was unable to defend LeClair who potted the rebound for his thirty first-career goal against the Canadiens. The goal was scored with just twenty-three seconds remaining in the first period.
Scoring was not as abundant in the second period as there were only two goals. The first was provided by another Sheldon Souray slap shot on a Canadiens two man advantage it was Souray’s second of the game and ninth of the season. Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu drew assist on the Canadiens fourth goal. The lead would not last long just a little over two minutes after the Canadiens took their second lead of the game Ryan Whitney gathered the puck off the end boards and promptly potted his third career NHL goal.
The final goal of the game would come just three minutes and fifty seconds into the third period when Sidney Crosby fed line mate and Penguins enforcer Andre Roy in the slot and although Roy was unable to get the shot off, the puck slid past David Aebischer who fell backwards attempting to keep the game tied.
The Canadiens out shot the Penguins 46-23 and dominated much of the game but a few defensive lapses and sub par goaltending cost them two crucial points in eastern conference playoff race.
Francis Bouillon who may have been the Canadiens best defenseman in the game was injured after Niklas Nordgren knocked Bouillon off balance. Bouillon crashed feet first into the boards and was carried off the ice in a stretcher. He was seen later leaving the Bell Centre with crutches but when he returned from receiving negative x-rays he was walking without those crutches. Bob Gainey said that Bouillon suffered a major bruise and will not accompany the Canadiens to Washington for Monday’s game. Andrei Markov on the other hand is expected to return to the line-up. David Aebischer allowed 5 goals in each of his first two starts with the Canadiens.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
2. John LeClair
3. Ryan Malone
1. This loss marked the Canadiens first three game-loosing streak since the end of January.
2. The Canadiens have lost all three meetings against the NHL basement dwelling Penguins this season.
3. Sheldon Souray recorded 7 shots in each of his last two games.