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Penguins vs. Canadiens blog

Sid shows some emotion

05.02.2010 / 9:01 PM ET

The fact that Sidney Crosby lost his composure in Game 2 of this series -- breaking his stick in frustration against the goal post of the Montreal net after being boxed out in the chase for a loose puck -- was a big topic of conversation Monday.

The stick broke in two and Crosby angrily heaved the broken piece of lumber into the corner as he headed to the bench. Crosby only managed one shot Sunday and was on the ice for both of Montreal's even-strength goals. He has been held without a goal in two of the past three games.

Crosby was not available Monday before the team left for Montreal in preparation of Tuesday's Game 3 at the Bell Centre, but neither coach Dan Bylsma nor veteran forward Bill Guerin seemed all that concerned about the rare outburst from the team's captain.

"You know, it was a situation in a game where I think he felt like we could do more and there was more to be done out there," Bylsma said Monday morning. "Whether it's the power play or the referee or not cashing in on the chances that were there; there's some times that frustration is evident in everybody. That was maybe what we saw.

"But again, we've also talked about it as a group and as players, and we're well aware of it, and I think we readjusted as the game went on and Sid adjusted and got back to focus on playing as well."

Guerin, who was brought in to serve as a mentor to Crosby, had no problem seeing the young captain blow off some steam. He says his team understood it completely.

"I think a lot of what happens with Sid is that he is so emotional and he invests so much into the game and sometimes he lets it show," Guerin said. "I don't see a problem in that, but I think a lot of the times, people take it the wrong way. Inside our dressing room, we don't.

"We know what Sid is about. It's only for good reasons. We all handle things differently, too. Yesterday, he was letting his emotions show and personally, I don't have a problem with that."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Montreal's changes don't pay dividends

05.02.2010 / 2:20 PM ET

Montreal coach Jacques Martin gambled and reconfigured his fourth line for Game 2, trying to find a spark for his team.

He scratched veteran Glen Metropolit and added Mathieu Darche and Ben Maxwell into the mix. There were two spots open on the fourth line because Marc-Andre Bergeron, playing fourth-line forward for much of the postseason, was moved back onto the blue line -- his natural position -- in the wake of the injury to Andrei Markov in Game 1.

But the trio of Darche, Maxwell and Andrei Kostitsyn did not have a good night.

They were on the ice for all of seven seconds on their first shift before Matt Cooke scored the game's first goal just 4:38 into the contest.

That was the beginning of the end. In fact, none of the three players saw the ice in the game's final two periods as Martin shortened his bench to just three lines.

"Unfortunately, I did not use our fourth line very much tonight," said Martin, who opted for Maxwell over Metropolit to inject some speed into the lineup.

But Martin said Metropolit, who rushed back from a shoulder injury to be ready for the playoffs, will find his way back into the lineup at some point.

"I think Glen Metropolit has given us a lot," Martin said. "His attitude has been outstanding. He's a tremendous veteran and he is a player that has helped our hockey team. Glen is the ultimate team player.

"It's not easy to make those decisions sometimes, but I am sure he will have the opportunity to get back in."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Walking wounded return for Pens

05.02.2010 / 2:20 PM ET

Defenseman Jordan Leopold, out for the past five games with a concussion, and bottom-six forward Tyler Kennedy are in the lineup for Pittsburgh for Game 2.

Leopold suffered his concussion in Game 2 of the first-round series against Ottawa after being leveled by Andy Sutton. Saturday, Leopold skated in his first full practice without restrictions -- shedding his non-contact jersey -- and showed coach Dan Bylsma enough to get back in the lineup. He takes the place of veteran Jay McKee, who was solid during his five-game run as an injury replacement.

Kennedy missed the past three games with a leg injury, but has been practicing for the past few days. He said Saturday that he could return to the lineup for Game 2 if he did not have any setbacks after Saturday’s practice.

Kennedy takes the roster spot of Jordan Staal, who is out after suffering a sliced tendon in his right foot during Game 1.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Halak's in for Game 2

05.02.2010 / 12:42 PM ET

Montreal is sticking with Jaroslav Halak in goal for Game 2.

Word broke here at Mellon Arena about 12:15 that Jacques Martin had decided to stick with Halak, who was pulled after allowing 5 goals on the first 18 shots he faced in Friday’s Game 1. He was replaced in the middle of the third period by Carey Price, who only faced three shots, stopping them all.

Martin added to the intrigue on Saturday, saying he had not decided who his Game 2 starter would be until game day. At the time, he said he wanted to evaluate “the situation where we are at. Whoever I decide will play, I have full confidence he will give us a tremendous game tomorrow.”

In the end, that player proved to be Halak, who won three straight elimination games against Washington in Round 1, stopping 131 of 134 shots during that three-game stretch.

But going with Price wouldn’t have been without precedence. Halak struggled badly in Game 3 of the Washington series and was pulled in-game. Martin went with Price in Game 4 and he entered the third period with the game tied at 2-all before Alex Ovechkin scored a pretty goal to key a four-goal outburst, which featured two empty-net tallies.

Halak was back for Game 5 and the rest, as they say, is history.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Martin undecided on goalie for Game 2

05.01.2010 / 6:07 PM ET

It might be reading too much into the words of a regularly non-committal Jacques Martin, but it was shocking to hear the Montreal coach say Saturday afternoon that he would decide on his Game 2 goalie Sunday morning, just hours before faceoff at Mellon Arena

"I'll decide on my goalie tomorrow," Martin said when asked about the goalie situation in the wake of first-round star Jaroslav Halak being pulled in the third period of Friday’s 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh. Halak allowed five goals on the first 18 shots he faced Friday, just 48 hours removed from a heroic performance to help Montreal beat top-seeded Washington in a Game 7 on the road to advance to the second round.

 

Montreal had to win three-straight elimination games against Washington to advance and Halak was the main reason a No. 8 seed was able to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit against a top seed for the first time in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the final three games, he limited the high-powered Capitals’ offense, No. 1 in the League, to just three goals as he stopped 131 of the final 134 shots he faced.

 

But Halak wasn’t sharp Friday night in the face of a Pittsburgh attack that proved to be more patient and cunning than the Capitals in the first round. At times, he appeared flummoxed by Pittsburgh’s ability to change the point of attack, an element absent from Washington’s play in the offensive zone.

 

Still, four of the five goals he allowed Friday night did come on the power play and, after the game, Martin said he gave Halak the hook -- in favor of Carey Price -- in order to change the momentum.

 

Price, who also replaced Halak in Game 3 of the Washington series and started and finished Game 4 of that series, stopped the only 3 shots he faced Friday night.

 

So, what will Martin be mulling as he decides whether to stay with Halak or try to catch lightning in a bottle with the surprise insertion of Price into the lineup?

 

"Just evaluating the situation where we are at," Martin told NHL.com. "Whoever I decide will play, I have full confidence he will give us a tremendous game tomorrow."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Back to basics for Pens

05.01.2010 / 4:04 PM ET

While the injury to Montreal's Andrei Markov is likely the most tangible proof that Pittsburgh's aggressive forecheck is paying dividends, the Penguins think the long-term payoff will be even more pronounced.

Markov, Montreal's best all-around defenseman, was injured when he was plastered into the corner board by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke, who was in aggressively on the forecheck and hit Markov cleanly as he released an outlet pass into the neutral zone.

There are reports that Markov suffered a season-ending left knee injury on the hit, although the Canadiens have not updated his status yet.

Pittsburgh was intent throughout Game 1 to get the puck in deep on the transition and then punish the Montreal defensemen as they turned their back to the play and went to retrieve the puck.

"When you a defenseman and you are going back every time and you know you are going to get hit -- even if it is not a big hit, but a rub out -- you know that it’s coming and you have to rush plays," fourth-line forward Mike Rupp, one of Pittsburgh's most enthusiastic forecheckers, told NHL.com. "I think it really puts the onus on the D to have some composure and be willing to take a hit. I think that is tough over the course of seven games."

So does Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, who wants to see Pittsburgh play even more behind Montreal's net and do an even better job of cycling the puck.

"We have made a focus on trying to get to the offensive zone," Bylsma said Saturday. "We want to play a cycling game below the goal line, use the back of the net and play in that offensive zone. Now it's without one of their best defensemen -- if not their best defenseman.

"It just emphasizes more how we want to play and need to play to get to our game. At times we did last game, but we still think we can do a better job of that. Whenever you lose a guy who plays 26 minutes back there and you count on him in a lot of situations, you need to now keep on that area of their game and keep playing at making their 'D' go back and making their whole team to play in the defensive zone."

Pittsburgh's willingness to get in on the forecheck was as pronounced Friday night as it has been in these playoffs. Not surprisingly, says Rupp, his team was rewarded for that diligence. He hopes the payoff is enough to convince the Penguins that this is the way to find success in the postseason.

"This is supposed to be our mindset all the time during the regular season, too," Rupp told NHL.com. "Our team is built on a lot of skill, but at the same time we have a lot of guys with speed who are physical players and our foundation should be our skating and our physical play.

"I thought we brought that during the Ottawa series and I thought it kind of wore on them. I thought we got to it at times last night against Montreal and did a better job 5-on-5 of putting pucks behind them. We're not saying that because we are playing the Montreal Canadiens we are going to do that more. We try to do that all the time and we plan on doing that some more, for sure."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Markov injury could be serious

05.01.2010 / 2:04 PM ET

According to several reports, Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov has returned to Montreal for treatment for a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of Game 1. The fear exists he could be done for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Montreal said Friday night that Markov would be re-evaluated Saturday. Montreal did not practice, but will have availability with the media later Saturday afternoon when an update on Markov’s status is expected.

Markov injured himself in the first period of Friday's 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena when Penguins forward Matt Cooke checked Markov heavily into the corner board as the Canadiens defenseman made an outlet pass toward center ice.

Markov went down awkwardly and appeared to hurt his left knee, although the team is saying only that is a lower-body injury. Markov needed help from the Montreal trainer getting off the ice and did not return.

The loss of Markov is a huge blow to Montreal's hopes of spring another upset in these playoffs.

The Russian is the team's best all-around defender and plays more than 26 minutes a game, including top-billing slots on both the power play and penalty kill, which was 32 of 33 against Washington in the first round, but allowed four power-play goals on four opportunities to Pittsburgh in Friday night's game.

Now the Montreal blue line is in disarray. The primary shutdown pair of Hal Gill and Josh Gorges remains, but things get dicey after that. Roman Hamrlik was benched in the first round. Marc-Andre Bergeron is in the midst of a crisis of confidence on the blue line and had been playing as a forward before the injury. Ryan O'Byrne began the playoffs as a healthy scratch and rookie P.K. Subban, the team's most noticeable defender in Game 1, has all of five NHL games -- three in the playoffs -- on his resume.

There was some thought that the Canadiens would receive some relief with the return of Jaroslav Spacek for Game 2, but that seems unlikely after Spacek skated with the Montreal scratches again Saturday as the regulars were giving the day off. Spacek, who has missed the past five games, did not speak to the media after the skate at Southpointe Iceoplex, suggesting that he has not fully recovered from a mystery virus that has sidelined him for the past three games.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Staal out for game

04.30.2010 / 9:00 PM ET

Pittsburgh's Jordan Staal left midway through the second period after a skate-to-skate collision with Montreal rookie defenseman P.K. Subban neat the Penguins' blue line. He appeared to be favoring his right foot or leg when he left the ice.

The Penguins list the injury as undisclosed and say he won't return.

--John Kreiser

Habs lose Markov

04.30.2010 / 8:27 PM ET

Montreal's hopes of winning Game 1 took a turn big hit Matt Cooke caught defenseman Andrei Markov with a solid hit in the corner of Markov's defensive zone late in the first period. Markov fell to the ice, writhing in pain as play went in the other direction. He was helped off the ice by a trainer and never really put much pressure on his right leg as he left the Mellon Arena ice. He was ruled out of the game with a lower-body injury and his status for Game 2 is up in the air.

Markov is the Habs' most reliable defenseman, averaging a team-high 26:26 in their first-round series against Washington. He is a key to both the Canadiens' power play and penalty kill, which was magnificent in killing 32 of 33 man-down situations in the first round.

Montreal dressed seven defensemen for Friday's game and were able to move Marc-Andre Bergeron into the rotation. He had been taking infrequent shifts as a fourth-line forward and also manned the point on the Canadiens' only power play of the first period.

The Habs were angered to see one of their best players lying prone on the ice and Scott Gomez went after Cooke at center ice before whistle ended the play. Gomez took an extra roughing penalty in the ensuing fracas to put Montreal shorthanded.

It didn't take long for Pittsburgh to make Montreal pay for the indiscretion as they scored their second power-play goal of the night to take a 2-0 lead. Jordan Staal used a sliding block attempt by Brian Gionta to partially screen Jaroslav Halak and beat him high to the glove side at 13:27.

Montreal's penalty kill looked a little hesitant without Markov -- Staal's goal was the second one allowed in as many attempts Friday night after the Canadiens killed 32 of 33 man-short situations against Washington. Pittsburgh added another power-play tally in the second minute of the second period to take a 3-0 lead. Kris Letang got that goal after Sidney Crosby created a turnover with some puck-hounding in the offensive zone.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Habs praise Crosby

04.30.2010 / 1:47 PM ET

It seems like Sidney Crosby saves his best for the Montreal Canadiens.

So the Canadiens know they are in for quite the challenge when they line up against the Crosby-led Penguins in Round 2, which begins Friday night at Mellon Arena. Crosby had an impressive 14 points in the six-game first-round ouster of Ottawa, but Montreal expects more from Sid the Kid.

"He's probably the best player in the world," said Montreal defenseman Josh Gorges, who along with partner Hal Gill will see an awful lot of Crosby in this series. "The thing with him is he'll pass, he'll shoot, he'll drive, he'll chip pucks. Whatever you give him, he'll take.

"We have our work cut out for us and we know it will take a five-man unit. It can't be one guy or one matchup. We're going to have to work and it is not going to be easy. We have to be in his face as much as we can."

Montreal center Mike Cammalleri says he is not surprised Crosby is so good against the Canadiens. Everyone gets up for games against Montreal because of the attention they get throughout Canada -- especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Plus, Crosby grew up in Nova Scotia cheering for the Habs, the dominant NHL team in the Maritimes and the team that drafted his father, Troy, as a goalie way back in 1984.

"I think that happens a lot with Montreal, especially with a guy like Sid, who has maybe an emotional attachment to the team, growing up watching them and being an Eastern Canada kid. It all adds to it," Cammalleri said. "I used to play in L.A. and anytime you would come play in any Canadian cities, you always get up for it. You know all eyes are on you and it reminds you of your childhood because Canada is so hockey-centric. I would imagine that's what it is like for him."

But Cammalleri doesn't see a fired-up Sid as a bad thing for the Canadiens or their fans. Instead, he says it should be seen as an honor.

I think (Crosby) is pretty popular in Montreal, too -- not the next couple of weeks, though," he said. "It's probably special for him, for the Habs fans and for us to play against him. He's a special player. He brings a lot of the things you really respect about hockey in his compete level and his work in both ends.

"There's no secret to him. I don't think you're going to shut him down, but we can work hard to contain him the best we can and try to find a way to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, and not just Sidney."

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Spacek out for Game 1

04.30.2010 / 1:01 PM ET

Montreal will once again be without the services of defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who is battling a mysterious virus. Spacek last played in Game 3 of the Washington series

Spacek skated in Friday’s morning skate, but stayed on late with the team’s scratches. As he finished the extra skating, Montreal coach Jacques Martin was officially ruling Spacek out of Game 1. Asked if Spacek would be a game-time decision, Martin said, “No, he’s out.”

That means that Montreal will likely go with the seven-defenseman alignment it used throughout much of the series. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron will see the odd shift as a fourth-line forward and will man the point on the power play, while rookie P.K. Subban takes a regular turn in the defensemen rotation.

Subban played the final two games against Washington and played with unbridled confidence. He notched an assist in Game 6, his first playoff game.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

Kunitz a go for Game 1

04.30.2010 / 12:04 PM ET

Although coach Dan Bylsma suggested Thursday morning that Chris Kunitz would be a game-time decision because of an unspecified injury, Kunitz pronounced himself fit and ready to go for Friday night's Game 1 against Montreal.

Kunitz, a top-line winger along with Bill Guerin, played in all six games against Ottawa in the first round and has used the six days off to rest and recuperate for a variety of dings.

Asked if he is a go for Game 1, he said: "I think so. I was fortunate to have some days in between games, so I should be ready to go."

The news is not good for Pittsburgh's other walking wounded.

Tyler Kennedy, out with a leg injury, is not playing Friday night. Despite skating in Thursday's practice and Friday's morning skate, he will not take part in the pre-game warm-ups.

Jordan Leopold, who suffered a concussion in Game 2 of the Ottawa series, is also likely out. He skated with a no-contact jersey in Thursday's practice and Bylsma has said Leopold would not play until he went through a practice without limitations.

Leopold says that he is no longer suffering from post-concussion symptoms, but does need to get his conditioning back.

-- Shawn P. Roarke

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