Endgame: Penguins 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Saturday, 11.26.2011 / 10:59 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
Post-Game: Jordan Staal
Pens-Canadiens In-Game Blog
Penguins vs. Canadiens Scouting Report
Everything you need to know from the Penguins' 4-3 overtime win over Montreal:
JUSTICE IS SERVED
Kris Letang may have been bloodied and broken (his nose, that is), but he wasn't beaten.
Minutes after returning to the bench from a trip to the locker room, where he’d been tended to by the team medical staff after absorbing a high hit from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, the Penguins defenseman scored the overtime winner to lift the Penguins over the Canadiens Saturday at the Bell Centre
“Obviously ‘Tanger’ coming back from a hit like that shows his character and what he can do,” center Jordan Staal said of the 24-year-old's heroics.
Letang had been felled with just over three minutes remaining in the third when Pacioretty came across the ice to hit him right after Letang released a shot just inside the blue line.
Letang immediately went to his knees as blood spurted from his face all over his jersey and the ice, and stayed there for a short while before going to the dressing room to get cleaned up and looked at by a doctor in accordance with the NHL’s league head-hit protocol.
“It’s a protocol to have to do as soon as somebody gets hit in the head,” said Letang, who did not need stitches to the cut on his nose.
He added that Pacioretty apologized after the hit, with Letang calling it “a great gesture.”
He was able to return to the bench for the start of overtime, where he scored on a gutsy, determined effort to get the Penguins the two points.
James Neal set the play in motion when he whipped a backhander to the net that Canadiens goalie Carey Price appeared to have frozen.
However, Price didn’t have full control of the puck – as Neal circled around the net and poked it out to Letang, who dragged it just outside the blue paint and slid it under Price’s pads.
“The whole time me and Nealer were digging for it,” Letang said. “It just came loose on my stick. I pulled it and I shot it.”
With the win, the Penguins now have an NHL-leading 32 points.
NEVER SAY DIE
The Penguins are proving to be quite the resilient team this season.
After getting off to a strong start with Evgeni Malkin’s goal just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff, Montreal responded a mere 1:27 later with a Travis Moen tally – the first of three straight the Canadiens would score.
But that in no way deterred the Penguins, as they would battle back from that 3-1 deficit to score three unanswered goals of their own en route to winning the game in overtime.
They also had to overcome a pair of disallowed goals that would have allowed them to draw even twice as well as two Canadiens power plays in the third.
“There was a lot of character in the game,” Staal said, who scored the huge game-tying tally with 4:30 left in regulation. “They’re not an easy team to come back from. They play well defensively.”
Chris Kunitz has eight tallies on the season, but that number could have crept into the double digits tonight if it weren’t for two disallowed goals tonight against the Canadiens.
If both plays had been ruled good, the Penguins would have drawn even twice. But the Penguins didn’t dwell on the face that they were disallowed, overcoming the adversity with goals from Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Staal and then Letang in overtime.
Kunitz’ first overturned goal came just 1:04 into the second period with Pittsburgh trailing 2-1, when Crosby won a battle in the corner of the Habs zone, turned and sent the puck to the net – which deflected off a crashing Kunitz and past Price.
The play, however, was ruled to be no good because it was determined that Kunitz punched it in.
The second came on a shorthanded breakaway with just under four minutes left in the third and the Penguins trailing 3-2.
On the play, Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek cleared a puck out of his own zone that deflected off the ref's skate right to a breaking Kunitz, whose initial shot was saved by Price.
While Kunitz stopped, his skate hit Price – who bowled over into his net, taking the puck with him. However, Kunitz’ chance was again ruled no goal because it was determined he initiated contact with the goaltender.
Unfortunately for Kunitz, those aren’t the first overturned goals Kunitz has dealt with this season – they’re actually Nos. 3 and 4.
But if he continues to work like he has been, Staal says it’s only a matter of time before the bounces go his way.
“’Kuni,’ he’s been working hard. Obviously he’s had some unfortunate bounces. He’s had I think four goals taken away this year already,” Staal said. “But he’s a hardworking guy, keeps our momentum going and hopefully I’m sure those’ll end up going in sooner for him.”
The Penguins’ last two wins have come as a result of balanced scoring, with a different player getting each of the nine goals combined between the contests.
But while spreading out the offense is key to success, that offense has been driven by the efforts of the Penguins’ top three centers – Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
They’ve combined for 10 points over that span: Crosby with four assists, Malkin with two goals and two assists and Staal with two goals. Big players make big plays in big games, and that was no different tonight.
It would end up being Malkin setting up Staal with the game-tying goal with 4:30 left in the third to force regulation on a gorgeous play.
Malkin crushed Canadiens captain Brian Gionta at center ice before finding the puck, circling around in the neutral zone and feeding Staal – who, fittingly enough, had just jumped on the ice to replace Crosby.
Staal flew down the ice and roofed a shot past Price to tie the game.
“I just jumped on the ice there and saw an opening when I changed for Sid,” Staal explained. “’Geno’ turned around and saw me wide open. I just went as hard as I could to the net and made a move. I was fortunate enough to get it in.”
Author: Michelle Crechiolo