The Pittsburgh Penguins (40-29-6) will take on the Montreal Canadiens (31-40-9) for the third game of their qualifying round. Their game is set for Wednesday night in Toronto, with puck drop at 7:00 PM. The series is currently tied 1-1. These two Eastern Conference teams reside in different divisions and ended the regular season in vastly different positions. The Penguins were third in the Metropolitan Division and had 86 points, while the Canadiens were fifth in the Atlantic and only tallied 71 points. Pittsburgh and Montreal were able to have all three of their planned regular-season matches. In the end, the Pens won the series 2-1. Their most recent game, which took place in February of this year, ended with the Penguins beating the Habs 4-1 after a flurry of second-period action.
Late Game Push Evens Series For PensPittsburgh had a strong regular season. It was the kind of hockey that people have come to expect from the Penguins in the past few years. Strong play all up and down the roster, all but securing them a playoff spot. However, their work before the break wasn’t quite enough to secure them a bye into the first round of the playoffs. This could be due in part to the poor stretch of hockey that the Penguins had a few games before the break. The team went on a six-game losing streak, which was more than double the number of losses in a row that they had at any other point in the season. That’s left them with a disappointing figure, seeing as they lost seven of their last ten games before the season pause. It certainly appeared that that disappointment might’ve followed them into the postseason when they dropped their first game of the playoffs.
On Monday, though, the team bounced back. They were able to battle the Canadiens to even up the series at a critical time. If they hadn’t won Monday’s game, they would’ve found themselves down by two in a series that only requires three wins. Putting themselves on an equal playing field to Montreal greatly increased their chances of making it into the first proper round of the playoffs. The Penguins got the scoring started early when Sidney Crosby got his second goal of the postseason at just under four minutes and thirty seconds into the match. His goal would be the last until the closing minutes of the third, though. There would be no other goals scored in the first period, the second period, or the first 13 minutes of the third period. The second goal of the game would also go to the Penguins, as Jason Zucker put the team up by two. While the Canadiens would threaten by getting themselves within one, Jake Guentzel scored an empty-net goal to seal their victory. Matt Murray was in net for the Pens, and he stopped 26 of 27 shots thrown at him for a save percentage of .963.
Habs Fail To Get Going In Game TwoThe Canadiens were the last of the Atlantic Division to make it into the qualifying round of the playoffs. The three teams below them in the standings didn’t make the cut, which certainly puts the Habs in an uphill battle. Even if they do make it into the first round of the playoffs proper, they’ll be a low seed and out of practice when it comes to postseason play. The Canadiens haven’t had a chance at the Stanley Cup since the 2016-17 season, and even then they were knocked out in the first round after six games. It appeared like they were off to a good start in game one of the qualifiers, though. They were able to battle into an extra period of hockey, and then win in overtime against the Penguins. That put them up by one in the series, but they’ve since lost that advantage.
The Habs didn’t put in the effort that they should’ve on Monday. Their game was slow, and they were unable to get anything on the board until there were just over two minutes left in the game. They did have one other good scoring chance earlier in the game. Brett Kulak was able to put the puck in the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed after it was determined that a Penguins player knocked the net off its pegs. The Habs were only able to get 27 shots on goal throughout the course of the game, which was 11 less than what the Penguins sent at their net. They did have the advantage when it came to hits, tallying a total of 31. Montreal’s lone goal came at 17:50 in the third period. It was scored by Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and it was his second goal of the playoffs. The goal put them within one but it wasn’t enough to get them into overtime, and they allowed the series to be evened up. In net for the Habs was Carey Price, and even though his team lost he had an outstanding game. He had 37 shots thrown at him, with 14 of those shots being shorthanded saves. He stopped 35 of those pucks and ended with a save percentage of .946.
- The Canadiens are 3-13 overall in one-goal games.
- The Canadiens are 5-9-3 overall when the game is tied after the first period.
- The Penguins are 10-1-1 when scoring first on the road.
- The Penguins are 15-7-2 overall when being outshot by their opponent.