Published May 10, 2010
MONTREAL -- Before signing with Montreal this past offseason, the loudest hockey rink Michael Cammalleri had ever played in was his college barn -- Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Cammalleri had a guest from his college days at Bell Centre on Monday night, Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson, and his former pupil had another marvelous performance to help prolong this magical Canadiens run in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I told him, 'You are in for a treat tonight.' I can't wait to hear what he says," Cammalleri said. "For anyone who wasn't in the building watching, it can't really be described."
The ex-Wolverine star scored Montreal's first two goals, and now leads all NHL scorers in this postseason with 11.
Cammalleri has six of the team's 14 goals in this series and 32.4 percent of Montreal's markers in the playoffs. That's easily the highest percentage of any player still playing in this postseason -- San Jose's Joe Pavelski has collected 26.5 percent of the goals for the Sharks in their 11 games.
"It feels good," Cammalleri said. "I try to sit and dwell on things like that, but we need goals to win right now. Nothing really matters up until now. Now all that matters is how you prepare for Game 7. It is great, but none of it really matters right now."
He didn't waste much time before striking early in this contest. Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang lost the puck as he was carrying it out of the Penguins' zone and Andrei Kostitsyn helped shield it from a charging Sidney Crosby and then set up Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec for a 2-on-1.
Plekanec carried the puck to the middle of the ice and then sent it back to Cammalleri at the right faceoff dot, and he ripped a one-timer into the top right corner 73 seconds into the first period.
"Things happen so quick early in the game," Cammalleri said. "For instance, the other night I had my best chance of the night on the first shift and I don't think I was ready, to be honest with you. Mentally, I don't think I was sharp enough on it, so you just really have to get yourself ready for that start."
After Pittsburgh scored the next two goals to take the lead, Cammalleri revived the Bell Centre faithful with a nifty goal midway through the second period. He took a pass from Roman Hamrlik and skated the puck out of his own zone to start a 3-on-3 the other way.
Cammalleri hit Kostitsyn with a cross-ice pass at center ice and then got the puck back from him at the top of the circles. He made a move to his right to open up some space and then snapped a backhanded shot back to the left that beat Marc-Andre Fleury.
"He's a dangerous guy," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "He has been this year and he has been before. Again, we talk about this team being dangerous on the rush and beware of those situations. That's where he has been real dangerous. … He's gotten opportunities and scored big goals for them."
Added Montreal coach Jacques Martin: "We've been critical of Andrei Kostitsyn, but tonight I think he gave us a strong game. I know Mike Cammalleri finished the plays, but I thought Andrei made some good plays on both goals of Mike's. I think (Tomas) Plekanec too -- that whole line was key."
Not only did the crowd roar to life, they continued to fete Cammalleri with a standing ovation throughout a television timeout that came quickly after the goal. It was the type of affection that had been reserved for Jaroslav Halak to this point in these playoffs, but Cammalleri is scoring his way to the top of the list of heroes for this Montreal club.
This has all been a new experience for Cammalleri, who had played in only six NHL playoff games before this season.
"[Scott Gomez] keeps teasing me about it," Cammalleri said. "When we won Game 7 in Washington, I walked into the room and he said, 'Welcome to the second round, Cammy.' He was having some fun with me. It didn't go so well the first five or six years. I don't think surprised is the word, but I am trying to do my best to help the team. It is pretty exciting hockey."