It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh as the Penguins welcome back the Montreal Canadiens. The Pens and the Habs have an interesting history in that the Penguins lost their first ever NHL game to the Habs as well as the last game to be played at the Mellon Arena. However, that would not be the case tonight as the Pens would take the game 3-1 in their first of four meetings with the Habs this season.
Despite some early chances by Montreal (followed by some magnificent work by Pens net-minder marc-Andre Fleury,) it would be Pittsburgh lighting the lamp first tonight courtesy of James Neal. Neal’s goal – his seventh of the season – would come as a result of some ping-pong action that would see his initial shot deflect of a Montreal defender, hit the post, bounce off of Habs net-minder Carey Price’s leg before redirecting into the net. That would be the only goal of the period, with the Pens outshooting the Habs 16 to 8.
On to the second, where early on Steve Sullivan would earn himself a beautiful breakaway only to be stopped by Price. That would not sit well with teammate Joe Vitale who would take but an extra minute or so to bank in a shot of his own, earning his first goal of the season, giving the Pens a 2-0 lead. Once again, it would be a one goal period with neither team being able to bank in on another scoring opportunity. The Pens would successfully kill of three penalties as Paul Martin (cross-checking,) Ben Lovejoy (holding) and Zbynek Michalek (hooking) would each spend two minutes in the sin bin. The Pens would end the period on a power play thanks to a boarding call on the Habs Brian Gionta, with nineteen seconds of it carrying into the third.
The Habs would successfully kill off Gionta’s penalty but it would be Arron Asham bringing the Pens to a 3-0 lead just five an a half minutes into the third. Following some fast-placed play in front of Price, Asham would whack a rebound out of mid-air into the netting. The play would be reviewed and after determining that there was no high-stick involved, the goal would stand. Despite a goal courtesy of Gionta with 1:55 remaining in the game, the Habs would be unable to bounce back, and the Pens would take the first game of the 2011-2012 series.
Paul Martin led all skaters with 27:23 of ice time, followed by Zbynek Michalek with 23:17. (Brooks Orpik, in his first game of the season, averaged 17:54.) Pascal Dupuis and Steve Sullivan each fired four shots in the direction of Habs goalie Carey Price, contributing to the 32 shots Price faced in total. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 28. Pittsburgh continues to occupy the second spot in the Eastern Conference and first place in the Atlantic division with 12 points on the season. James Neal is second in the league in terms of goals while Marc-Andre Fleury sits fourth in terms of wins by a goalie.
Tonight’s game saw the much anticipated return of veteran defenceman Brooks Oprik. Orpik, often viewed as one of the team’s
leader and affixed with the “A” has missed the first eight games of the season after recovering from surgery this summer. Kris Letang, serving a two game suspension for a hit against Winnipeg’s Alex Burmistrov ,returns to action on Saturday while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Dustin Jeffrey continue to be listed as day-to-day with no clear timeline for their return. Tyler Kennedy, who has missed the last two games, has been listed with a concussion and it is unknown as to when he will return.
The Penguins next game goes Saturday in Pittsburgh when the New Jersey Devils come to town. Game start is at 7:00pm.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury
2. Deryk Engelland
3. Arron Asham