The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Saturday night. It was the teams fourth win in a row and 12th in the month of December. That is now a franchise record, and the first time in Pittsburgh’s history they have won twelve games in one month.
Evgeni Malkin buried the game winner 1:10 into the extra frame with the Habs serving a too-many-men on the ice penalty.
Malkin finished the night with a goal and an assist which puts him into a tie with Connor McDavid for the league lead in points with 43. Sidney Crosby, however, failed to register a point, thus ending his six game point scoring streak.
Marc Andre Fleury made 37 saves to register his sixth win in his last seven starts. Despite allowing three goals, Fleury looked confident and aggressive. When he is on his game, he plays high in his crease and likes to use his poke-check move. That was all on display in this game, esp in the third period when he made a hand full of tough saves. Including a couple on Brenden Gallagher, and couple of odd-man breaks as well.
It was Montreal who struck first on the evening as 4:07 into the game, Alexander Radulov finished off a nice transition rush. Shea Weber led the rush, and the Pens defense looked a little flat-footed on the play. The well executed play put the Canadiens ahead and you couldn’t help to flash back to the game earlier in the year when Montreal dominated the Pens, in Montreal 4-0.
Those feelings would be magnified when Pittsburgh failed to take advantage of 3 first period power plays. This coming after going 0 for 8 in their first game in October. To make matters more difficult, Carey Price was on his game early. Making a huge blocker save on Conor Sheary from point-blank range.
Both teams would finish the first period with 11 shots, and the Habs held the one-goal advantage.
Welcome back, Kris Letang…..and early in the second, his brilliant defensive play would ultimately lead to the Penguins tying goal. Letang sprawled to the ice to block a centering pass on an odd man rush for Montreal. Just a very instinctive play executed to perfection. Eventually the puck would get to Carl Hagelin at the blue line on the far side. He would send a cross-ice pass to a streaking Geno. Geno carried the puck patiently on a two on two with Patric Hornqvist before sending the pass across to him.
Just over three minutes later, Pittsburgh would take the lead.
After an errant centering pass by Montreal, Olli Maatta (also back after missing a couple of games due to illness) would get the puck to Hagelin. Carl would send an area pass to the far boards where Phil Kessel picked it up in stride through the neutral zone. Kessel would beat the Habs defenseman and gain the corner on him.
From there, despite some clutching and grabbing, Kessel would deke Price and beat him with a nifty back-hander from in tight. The goal was Kessel’s 12th of the year and give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
The Penguins would then spend a lot of the rest of the second period on the penalty kill. While successful in doing so, it definitely turned he momentum of the game. Montreal would finish the period with 18 shots.
Their last one would equalize the game at two.
Paul Byron would tip in a shot from the slot after Jeff Petry put a long distance slapper towards Fleury. The Penguins had a chance to clear the puck out prior to the goal. Connor Sheary couldn’t quite get to it on the near boards. It was another dreaded last-minute of the period tallies that shift momentum.
That momentum carried Montreal to the lead early in the third.
Just 2:04 into the period, Brian Flynn put a puck on net where it would take a bounce off of Fleury, hit defenseman Chad Ruhwedel who was boxing his man out perfectly and come back into Marc-Andre. He would accidentally nudge the puck into his own net while scrambling to find it.
The goalies would then do their best to keep that score hold up. The aforementioned Fleury, on numerous occasions, and Price stopping Hornqvist, Malkin, and Schultz among others.
The Pens would fail on a power play with time ticking down before having to pull Fleury for an extra attacker.
Letang and Schultz would move the puck out high in the zone before Schultz would whip the puck on net. Conor Sheary would be in the right place at the right time. The puck came up high and hit Sheary in the uniform logo before fluttering into the net behind a helpless Price.
The game was tied at three with :55 to go. Time expired and we went to three on three hockey.
Early into the extra frame, in a weird sequence, Montreal was whistled for too many men. The odd part was that the stoppage in play came with Pittsburgh carrying the puck on what looked to be a two on one rush. Coach Mike Sullivan was very upset with the whistle and the ref patted him on the back like ‘my bad’.
After Paul Steigerwald for seemingly the 10th time in two years, blew out his vocal chords calling a goal that was not even close to going in……
It really did end, this time. Typical one timer from the far circle on the power play.
The club now goes on their bye week, as all clubs will get one. This was made possible in an agreement between the players and the league in exchange for staging the World Cup of Hockey in the pre-season.
Despite the historic month, the Penguins continue to chase the Columbus Blue Jackets who have won 15 games in a row.
All things taken into account, this year has been a year that Penguin fans will never forget. From the Cup win, to the return to dominance by Crosby, to the huge start to this new season. It’s good to be a fan of the black and gold heading into 2017.
We will take a look at the year just ended this week, so look for it!
Pittsburgh will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, January 8th at 12:30.
Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!!!