The Habs’ two game winning streak came to an end Friday night, as they lost 6-3 to the surging Penguins. The Canadiens quickly fell into a hole, early in the 1st, during a period which saw Pittsburgh take the play to Montreal for a large portion of it. Though the Habs came alive in the second with several goals, they could not sustain that pressure into the 3rd period.
Sophomore superstar Sidney Crosby would open the scoring only 4:28 into the 1st with a beautiful one-on-four goal, where he would split the defense and beat Aebischer with one of his nicest goals of the year. That was his 30th on the season.
Eric Christensen would make the game 2-0 with less than a minute remaining in the 1st, capitalizing on some sloppy stick handling by Aebischer. Aebischer, who was trying to clear the puck, played it right to Christensen, who in turn beat the out-of-position goalie five-hole.
The Habs finally seemed to wake up in the second period. Chris Higgins would pick up the puck behind the net, and beat Fleury with a wraparound 3:33 in. The chance came on the power play, with Higgins making the best of a missed shot by Ryder.
Montreal would tie it up several minutes later. Once again on the power play, Sheldon Souray blasted home his team-leading 24th goal of the year. This evened the score at two, and would give the Habs a much needed morale boost. It was the final goal of the period.
The third period commenced much like the 1st did. The Penguins were once again taking the play to the Habs, and that effort paid off. Within a forty second span, the Penguins managed to score two quick goals. Christensen would notch his 2nd of the game 3:40 in, taking a Malkin pass from behind the net. Then, at the 15:40 mark of the period, Gary Roberts managed to poke in a rebound, making the score 4-2.
A mere forty seconds later, however, the Habs got back in the game. Once again on the power play, Koivu would find a pinching Markov with a beautiful pass. The goal, only Markov’s 5th, would make the score 4-3.
Pittsburgh would finally put the game out of reach at the 13:47 mark of the 3rd period. Ouellete would tap in a beautiful Malkin saucer pass, making the score 5-3. Crosby would also notch an empty net goal, his 2nd of the game with less than a minute to play.
This game was the Habs’ 1st loss in three, pushing them ever closer to elimination in the playoff race. There was some good news on Friday though, as Toronto would also lose to the Capitals, 5-1 . Meanwhile, the Rangers would also take a 3-2 loss to the Thrashers. This means they (Montreal) remain a mere two points back of the 8th and final playoff spot, as there was no movement in the standings. If the Habs wish to play well into April, however, a much better showing than tonight’s will be needed.