Former Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak stifles Penguins again; Blues' Johnson scores in OT



ST. LOUIS -- Sometimes the goalie gets you, and sometimes you get the goalie.

Occasionally, both goalies get everyone. Or just about everyone.

Saturday night at Scottrade Center, it took defenseman Erik Johnson's goal off a deflection 50 seconds into overtime to break up a scoreless game as the Penguins lost to the St. Louis Blues, 1-0.

The winning goaltender knows how to get the Penguins.

Jaroslav Halak of St. Louis, and formerly of Montreal, made 31 saves to collect his 10th career shutout and fifth win in a row over the Penguins, a string that includes his key performances in the second round of the 2010 playoffs as the Canadiens ousted the Penguins.

Penguins backup goaltender Brent Johnson, who broke in with the Blues and played parts of five seasons with them through 2003-04, made 23 saves for the Penguins, who had their four-game winning streak stopped.

"They both played well," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of the goaltenders. "We would have loved to get [Brent Johnson] the win, but they got a good play in overtime."

After an extended and effective St. Louis forecheck to start overtime, T.J. Oshie took the puck from Penguins defenseman Paul Martin and fed Erik Johnson, who was in the slot and picked up his first goal of the season.

Brent Johnson said he came out to challenge the other Johnson and thought he saw the puck bounce off of a teammate and under his legs.

Brent Johnson fell to 4-0-1 but might have played his best game.

"I felt the best I have," he said. "Everything felt sharp. It's too bad we couldn't get two points. I really wanted to beat those guys bad."

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma could have opted for No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was coming off a good performance in a 4-3 overtime win Thursday at Nashville. Johnson, though, had been strong so far, with three of his wins coming in successive games while Fleury effectively was benched before the Nashville game.


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Bylsma indicated that his decision simply was a matter of Johnson being scheduled to start this game from the time the coaches set out a rough draft of which goaltender would play which game in October, plus the fact that Johnson might get an extra kick out of playing against the team that gave him his first chance in the NHL.

Somewhat strangely, Johnson had faced the Blues only once before -- Oct. 27, 2007, while with Washington, when he gave up four goals on 18 shots in a 4-3 loss at St. Louis.

In this game, the Penguins were a little sloppy in the first period, when they managed just three shots, but both teams later had alternating stretches of scoring chances and times when it was tough to get things going.

To start the third period, for example, the Penguins had 1:20 of power play time but could not get set up in the offensive zone. In the final couple of minutes of regulation, Halak was forced to make good saves on Mike Comrie, Chris Kunitz and Crosby.

"Give them the first, we outplayed them in the second and the third was 50-50," said Crosby, who has failed to score against just five teams in his career, St. Louis being one of them.

Halak, 25, was a ninth-round draft pick by Montreal in 2003 and had good numbers in light use with Canadiens before last season. There is no question he rushed to fame in the playoffs, getting the four wins in series against Washington and the Penguins.

In the second round against the Penguins, he got pulled in Game 1 after giving up five goals in 45 minutes. He came back to allow just 11 goals over the next six games as Montreal upset the Penguins in seven.

He was traded trade to St. Louis June 17 for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz.

While the Penguins might have developed some sort of mental block where Halak is concerned -- "No comment," winger Matt Cooke said when asked about that -- he has one admitted admirer among the Penguins.

"He played really well between the pipes down there," Brent Johnson said. "It looked like he played a confident game, and they got a deflection at the end."

St. Louis had beaten Chicago, 4-2, a night earlier. Coach Davis Payne didn't peg the Slovakian goaltender to play for a second night in a row because he figured Halak can't lose to the Penguins, but because he thought his No. 1 goalie should play.

"I always go back and forth -- who does that benefit?" Payne said of Halak's seeming dominance of the Penguins. "Is it the shooter or is it the goalie? Sometimes the shooter now has the chance to make an adjustment and the goalie has to play ahead of that. It's kind of like that pitcher-batter matchup that at some point averages kick in."

That hasn't happened in this case.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721 First Published October 24, 2010 4:00 AM


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