by Tony on 02/20/09 at 12:19 AM ET
Sergei Gonchar’s presence in the Penguins’ lineup had been paying dividends already, before tonight’s game vs. Montreal.
The Penguins’ powerplay, with Gonchar as the quarterback, is moving the puck much more confidently and getting better shots on goal.
But it was Gonchar’s hard and, more importantly, accurate shot that provided the game-winner for the Pens at the 7:18 mark of the third period, giving the Penguins a huge 5-4 win at the Igloo tonight vs. the Habs.
The Penguins’ win, combined with the losses by both Florida and Buffalo and the win by Carolina, kept them in 10th place in the East but drew them only four points out of 8th place and now five points from sixth place Montreal.
The win was the first for Interim Head Coach Dan Bylsma (hereto known as IHCDB). After a four-hour training camp-style practice on Wednesday, which preached aggressiveness and north-south speed, the Penguins came out strong against the Habs, who appeared to be a step slow for the first part of the game because of their overtime game in Washington last night.
The Pens got on the board first midway through the first period after Chris Minard fired a wrister on net that Habs’ goalie Carey Price stopped, but Petr Sykora was there to grab the rebound and lift a shot to the top shelf to beat Price and give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
The Habs got the tying goal after a bad turnover by Matt Cooke in the Habs’ zone which led to a 3-on-2 break for them. In the Pens’ zone, Andrei Kostitsyn made a nice backwards pass to Tomas Plekanec, who fired a quick wrister that beat Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the game at one.
However, the Penguins retook the lead only a minute later when Evgeni Malkin dangled the puck in the Habs’ zone, then passed it to Mark Eaton just inside the zone. Eaton passed it to Ryan Whitney, who fired a slapper from the right point that was deflected by Miro Satan and past Price to make it 2-1 Pens.
But, the Habs came right with about five minutes left in the second period while on a 5-on-3 powerplay. After missing an obvious high-sticking call to the face of Rob Scuderi, the Habs got the puck to returning Hab Mathieu Schneider, who ripped a one-timer from the right point past Fleury to tie the game at two.
The Penguins came right back at the start of the third when Ruslan Fedotenko brought the puck in the Habs’ zone and left it for Sidney Crosby. Crosby then made a quick centering pass to a diving Malkin, who one-timed it past Price for a beauty of a goal to give the Pens the 3-2 lead only 29 seconds into the period.
The Pens padded their lead at the 3:00 mark, and might have been aided by a non-call of their own. Matt Cooke was able to get the puck behind the Habs’ net. Jordan Staal poked around to try to get possession, and in the process pushed the Habs D-man slightly into Price. While that was going on, Max Talbot grabbed the loose puck and fired a wrister past Price and into the net, while the back of it was being lifted, to make it 4-2 Pens.
Things were looking comfortable, but not for long. Only 13 seconds later, Andrei Kostitsyn fired a sweet wrister past D-man Hal Gill that shielded Fleury a bit and into the net to make it 4-3.
A few minutes later the Habs struck again, this time on a slapper by Plekanec again at the left slot past Fleury to tie the game at four.
However, the game-winner only came 47 seconds later, as Fedotenko passed the puck to the center point for Gonchar and provided a good shield. Gonchar patiently waited a couple of seconds then launched his familiar slapper that Price didn’t see until it was too late to give the Pens the 5-4 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
- Only one powerplay for the Pens tonight, which was unsuccessful. Montreal got the last four powerplays.
- Malkin was a team-high +3.
- Brooks Orpik with 7 hits, Cooke with 6.
- Pascal Dupuis with 7 shots on goal.
- Crosby was 12 for 17 on faceoffs.
The Penguins now embark for a huge weekend of games, Saturday afternoon in Philly and Sunday afternoon in Washington.
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Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
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