With just six games left to go in the regular season, their playoff spot secure and the title to the Atlantic Division clinched, the Penguins were simply looking to continue to add to their point streak in an attempt to take the overall Eastern Conference title. Tonight, they faced the Montreal Canadiens, who, for their part, with 57 points, have secured their own playoff spot, leading their division by a single point and having lost their last two. And, despite being without their “superstars,” as much as the hockey world is quick to point out, the Penguins continued to dominate.
Pittsburgh came out absolutely flying in the first, dominating play both on the scoreboard and on the ice. The first goal of the game came with just over seven and a half minutes off the board, courtesy of Brandon Sutter, earning his 10th of the year. With the teams playing on four-on-four, the result of a roughing penalty to Matt Cooke and a high stick against Montreal’s Brandon Gallagher, Sutter carried the puck down the ice on the far side, snapping a shot from the top circle and beating Peter Budaj glove side. Two minutes later, Brenden Morrow would increase the lead to two with his 10th of the season. Finding a loose puck between the circles, Morrow roofed it over Budaj and into the net. Montreal would gain a little momentum in the second half of the period, trapping the Pens in their own zone and resulting in a blocked shot by Brooks Orpik on a point blank shot from Brian Gionta. But it was to no avail as Max Pacioretty would be called for a trip with a minute and a half remaining in the period, sending the Penguins to a late power play. This time, it was Jarome Iginla, with his 1100th career point, earning the power play goal and giving Pittsburgh the 3-0 lead. Chris Kunitz moved the puck through the paint to Iginla who lifted the puck over Budaj for the point. After twenty, up three, the Penguins were actually outshot 11 to 9 although they outhit Montreal 19 to 7.
A minute and a half into the second, Tyler Kennedy was sent to the box for interference after he shoved Brian Gionta into the net behind Fleury. (He takes payback literally.) Pittsburgh killed the penalty off no problem and responded, in turn, with their fourth goal of the evening. Morrow, earning his second of the evening, beat Carey Price, who started the second in place of Budaj, to increase the Penguins lead to four. Brian Gionta, however, reduced the lead to three, scoring Montreal’s first of the night, seemingly out of nowhere, crashing the net and knocking the puck past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh was not to be outdone, and, unsurprisingly, responded with their fifth of the night, that goal being Sutter’s second of the evening. An initial shot by Morrow rebounded to Sutter, crashing the net, blade on the ice, allowing him to redirect the puck into the net behind Price. Before the end of the period, Alex Galchenyuk earned Montreal’s second of the evening with two and a half minutes left in regulation. Pittsburgh would end the period on a four-minute power play when Brandon Gallagher was called for another high stick, this time Matt Cooke being the recipient. After forty, the Penguins would lead 5 to 2 despite being outshot 11 to 8.
Pittsburgh started the third up a man for three and a half minutes. This time, Montreal was successful in their penalty kill, and with just over sixteen minutes left to go in regulation, the Penguins continued to lead 5 to 2. However, in a split second, the Canadiens cut the lead to two courtesy of Gabriel Dumont, his first of the season. Without giving anyone a chance to blink, Douglas Murray would regain the three goal lead with his first of the season – and his first in 146 games – the scoreboard reading 6 to 3 in favour of Pittsburgh. With seven minutes off the clock, Brenden Morrow and PK Subban went toe-to-toe, both earning five minute fighting majors. The two continued the discussion from the confines of their respective boxes, and in the end, they would be escorted across ice when they were released. Montreal would also swap out their goalie, bringing Budaj back in. With less than five minutes left in regulation, Morrow and Brandon Prust would be sent to the box, Prust for a slash, Morrow for a cross check. At this point, PK Subban’s game ended as he was given two for roughing and a ten minute misconduct after shoving his hand in the face of Brooks Orpik after play was whistled dead. Andre Markov earned Montreal’s fourth of the night with ten seconds left in regulation, the final score being 6 to 4.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 28:55 followed by Brandon Sutter with 19:41. Pascal Dupuis contributed four shots on goal to the total 29 the Penguins sent toward the Canadiens’ net-minders. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 35 shots. Brendon Morrow enjoyed a three point night while Matt Niskanen, Jarome Iginla, Brandon Sutter and Kris Letang each had two points.
Evgeni Malkin was held out of the lineup for the second game with an upper body injury. The Penguins also continue to be without Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Paul Martin despite the fact that they have returned to the ice, skating prior to practice.
The Penguins head to Boston where they will face off against the Bruins Friday night at 7:00pm.