Game 3 Recap: Pouvons-Nous Faire Ceci?!
The Montreal Canadiens came into the series against the Pittsburgh Penguins feeling like they would be lucky to win a game.
Now, they have a chance to finish off the mighty Pittsburgh Penguins.
Who would’ve thought that in a pivotal game three of a best of five, the 24th-seed Montreal Canadiens would overcome a 3-1 deficit to beat the Penguins 4-3?
And who would’ve thought that instead of staving off inevitable elimination, this win would put the Canadiens on the cusp of moving on?
But thoughts or no thoughts, it happened. The game started off with a sweet goal from Shea Weber to give the good guys a 1-0 lead. The Penguins responded with two consecutive power-play goals within a minute of each other, one each by Patric Hornqvist and Jason Zucker. 2-1 Penguins after the first period. Teddy Blueger extended the lead early in the second period, and the Canadiens were losing their grip on the game. But then, something magical happened. Jonathan Drouin, the guy who is paid $5.5 million to score, scored. The Canadiens then got a golden opportunity on the power play, but the power play didn’t score. It did, however, establish the possession that enabled Paul Byron to tie the game on a wraparound, immediately after the penalty expired. Going into the third period tied at 3, everybody was tense. The tension was relieved slightly on the Montreal bench when Jeff Petry scored on a perfectly placed shot from the goal line. Despite a Paul Byron penalty, and the best efforts of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the score stayed 4-3 through to the final buzzer.
Two Versions of Drouin: Before-Goal and After-Goal
It’s one thing to turn your play around over the course of a series. It’s quite another to drastically improve halfway through a game. Jonathan Drouin did just that. Before his goal he was frustrated. He was giving the puck away and fighting with it. He was trying plays that just weren’t there. His confidence was obviously shot. But after he scored what was a pivotal goal, Drouin was much more confident with the puck, he was skating faster, and he was putting more pucks to the net instead of being more passive in the offensive zone. Now that Drouin has his confidence back, I would not be surprised to see another ace performance in game four. Confidence can really turn a player’s game around on a dime. It’s one of those intangibles that have a huge effect on the abilities of a player. Just as that goal built confidence for Drouin, this win builds confidence for the Canadiens as a team. This is brilliant for the Canadiens, because a confident team is a dangerous team.
Defence Carries Offence
The Canadiens’ top forwards needed to show up for them to win game three. Not all of them did, but those who didn’t were supplemented by a two-goal, six-point night from the defence corps. Why were the defensemen suddenly so potent offensively? They started being more aggressive in the offensive zone. Shea Weber scored his goal from the goal crease instead of his usual spot at the point. Jeff Petry scored his goal from the goal line, no less. The Canadiens were better as a whole on the forecheck because defensemen were not afraid to move deeper to pinch. One would think, that against a potent Penguins offence, this strategy carries greater risk than reward. One might be forgetting that experienced defensemen like Petry and Weber aren’t idiots. They know when to move deeper into the offensive zone and when to stay back. Clearly, they knew what they were doing, because their forecheck paid dividends last night.
Carey Price Was Great – But Overlooked For Once
In all the hoopla about Jonathan Drouin finally scoring, the offence waking up and the defence chipping in on offence, people forgot that Carey Price made 30 saves. On its own, that’s pretty impressive, but it was the timing of those saves that made Price integral to the Canadiens being victorious. Price had no chance on any of the Pittsburgh goals, but when the Canadiens were down 3-1, Price was there, and made some key stops to keep the game in reach for the Canadiens, namely his patented “dead arm, one knee down” save on Jake Guentzel. Who, by the way, was stymied on all seven shots he took last night. Those saves allowed the Canadiens to come back and take the lead. When the Canadiens took an ill-timed penalty (again) late in the third period, Carey Price shut the door on Crosby and Malkin and the whole power play unit, and the Canadiens preserved the lead. Price has a pristine .951 save percentage at even strength in this series. Matt Murray: .901. That has been a key difference so far in this series, and a main reason that the Canadiens are up 2-1.
Whack-A-Mole on the Penalty Kill
It has been lamented on this blog that the Canadiens were taking too many penalties through the first two games. Luckily, they only allowed one power play goal against through those two games. Suddenly, the Canadiens only took three penalties! Hallelujah! The bad news: they allowed goals on two of them. And not just any two goals; they were the tying and go-ahead goals for the Penguins. It’s like Whack-A-Mole in that the Canadiens were taking many penalties, but killing them off. Suddenly they take fewer penalties, but can’t kill them off. It’s frustrating. The two power play goals for the Penguins might have had something to do with key penalty-killers Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot in the box, but nonetheless the Canadiens need to take few penalties, while at the same time killing off the ones they do take. That was the only aspect of their game last night that they need to improve on (other than the power play, of course, but when do they not need to improve on the power play?).
Fun Fact: Jeff Petry became the sixth defenseman in Canadiens history to score two game winning goals in the playoffs, and the first since Chris Chelios in 1989.
Very Fun Fact: The team that wins game three to go up 2-1 in a best-of-five series has won 75% of the time (21-7 record).
Due to time constraints involving the Jewish Sabbath, I may not be able to write about game four. I certainly hope that I won’t have to write about game five, because I hope there won’t be a game five. However, if there is a game five I will write about it.
Game four is on Friday at 4:00 PM. Game five, if necessary, is on Saturday, time TBD.
Les Canadiens peuvent-ils vraiment gagner vendredi?! Nous verrons…
Go Habs Go.
Signed, Le Bo