Penguins failed to repeat game plan from series opener
The Pittsburgh Penguins were the better team in game 2 but they failed to execute in a number of areas which is why the Montreal Canadiens took home-ice advantage away from Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh dominated play in the offensive zone but Montreal frustrated the Penguins. Montreal kept Pittsburgh to the perimeter in the offensive zone and the Penguins were their own worst enemy.
In game 1, they were aggressive in creating a consistent net presence and getting pucks high on Halak. Game 2 was a different story.
The Penguins got comfortable and didn’t have the will to win when it came to the little things that needed to be done. There were too many situations where the Penguins were passing pucks to the points, instead of cycling and creating offense down low in the offensive zone.
Penguins express disappointment after fast start
A few players expressed disappointment in the Penguins not being able to build off of their strong start. Matt Cooke scored just 4:38 into the game and Pittsburgh controlled the play in the first 8-9 minutes and Jaroslav Halak did not look as poised as he later did in the second and third period. The opportunity appeared to be there to get to Halak.
A turning point was a Ruslan Fedotenko interference penalty in the offensive zone just seconds after he made a great play at the blue line that led to a scoring chance.
It was a bad penalty and it halted Pittsburgh’s momentum. Head coach Dan Bylsma has tried just about everything to jumpstart Fedotenko’s game, putting him on the 5th line in practice on a daily basis and also making him a healthy scratch.
Little has worked and there are better fits than Fedotenko to play a fourth line role.
Talbot stars in third line center role
Max Talbot filled in admirably in place of Jordan Staal as the Penguins third line center. It’s a role that Talbot is ready to run with.
The Penguins third line of Matt Cooke – Talbot and Pascal Dupuis had a strong game.
Cooke delivered the Penguins only goal just minutes into the game. Talbot won a neutral zone face-off and Pascal Dupuis won a battle on the boards leading to a 2-on-1 situation and Talbot hit Cooke in stride who beat Halak with a backhander.
Talbot had a tremendous game and with the Penguins trailing 2-1, Talbot drew a penalty with six seconds remaining the second period to put the Penguins on the power play to open the third. It was a golden opportunity for Pittsburgh to tie the game but they would end up going 0-for-3 on the man advantage in the third.
Bylsma looks to jumpstart Malkin’s line
Evgeni Malkin’s line has struggled mightily at even strength and Dan Bylsma looked to jumpstart the line by elevating Tyler Kennedy alongside Malkin and Alexei Ponikarovsky.
Kennedy who has previously missed three straight games due to a knee injury, had 5 shots on goal in less than 13 minutes of ice time.
Malkin’s line did some good things in the the first period but failed to generate much late in the game. Alexei Ponikarovsky who has been a major disappointment when it comes to offensive production did play a physical game early on.
Bylsma went with a few different combinations throughout the game, as Bill Guerin took two shifts on Malkin’s wing in the second period and Ruslan Fedotenko would take a shift here and there.
Once Pittsburgh trailed, Bylsma went with Malkin and Crosby together more often.
Opportunity to exploit Habs No. 6 defenseman
One matchup the coaching staff has tried to exploit is getting Sidney Crosby on the ice against Canadiens No. 6 defenseman Marc Andre Bergeron. Bergeron is a power play specialst and extremely vulnerable in the defensive zone. Bylsma saw that matchup around the 5:00 minute mark in the first period and got Crosby on the ice against Bergeron and Pittsburgh created a prime scoring chance.
Pittsburgh’s play defensively in front of their own net has been poor throughout the first two games. Montreal is finding open space on what appears to be blown assignments by Pittsburgh. That’s an area they need to shore up.
There’s some thought in the media that the Penguins will look to slow things down in game 3. Likely not going to happen. The coaching staff feels Pittsburgh is at their best when they are pushing the play and Dan Bylsma is already calling for more shots in game 3.
Montreal Canadiens Jacques Martin indicated in his post-game comments that there is a typical pattern through two games; Special teams and goaltending. In game 1, Pittsburgh won the special teams battle going 4-for-4 on the power play, while Montreal got subpar goaltending from Jaroslav Halak.
In game 2, Montreal won the special teams battle and got dominant goaltending from Halak.
No Time to Panic
It appeared that some Penguins were stunned that the series is now tied 1-1 but Bill Guerin who is a calming presence inside the locker room says the loss is nothing to get frustrated about.
“It’s nothing to get frustrated about,” Guerin said. “We don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel. They’re a solid defensive team………They’re well coached and they know what they’re doing and you don’t want to get down to teams like that.”