Game 7: Do or die for Penguins and Canadiens
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik: "When you play the best-of-seven, usually the best team wins. So, I think we're pretty confident going into it."
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MONTREAL -- Anyone with an elementary school diploma quickly can figure out the meaning of Game 7 tonight between the Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.
The teams have run their Eastern Conference semifinal series to the limit, with the deciding game coming at Mellon Arena.
"Clearly, everyone in the building in Mellon will understand what's at stake," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "You're either moving on or you're going home."
Understanding the intricacies of such a winner-take-all game goes a little deeper.
Game: Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7:15 p.m. today, Mellon Arena.
Series: Tied, 3-3.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, Versus, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Penguins: Are 7-4 in Game 7s. ... Lead the playoffs with 415 hits ... Tyler Kennedy has no points in nine games in the playoffs.
Canadiens: Are 12-8 in Game 7s. ... Lead the postseason with 294 blocked shots. ... Mike Cammelleri leads playoffs with 11 goals.
Of note: Montreal is second-to-last with 26.7 shots per game this postseason.
For that, relatively short-term memory kicks in for the Penguins and Canadiens.
The Penguins won two Game 7s last year -- a 6-2 victory at Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and a 2-1 victory at Detroit in the Stanley Cup final to clinch the 2009 championship.
Although the Penguins squandered a chance to sew up the series Monday, falling to Montreal, 4-3, in Game 6 to leave the series tied, 3-3, experience has taught them that things tend to end the way they are supposed to over the course of each round.
"When you play the best-of-seven, usually the best team wins," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "So, I think we're pretty confident going into it."
So is Montreal.
Not only have the Canadiens stretched the defending champions to Game 7, but they also are coming off of a first-round showing in which they overcame a 3-1 deficit against Washington to beat the Capitals in seven games.
In that Game 7, Montreal ousted the Presidents' Trophy club with a 2-1 win on the road to advance to this round.
"We've got a lot of guys who have been through this before," Canadiens center Scott Gomez said.
"We've still got a long way to go. I don't think anyone's looking back. It's been like that all year. We've learned a lot this year. It's a great group of guys. It's Game 7. Here we go."
Montreal has been the underdog that could this postseason, surely the most surprising of the seven remaining clubs.
"Maybe we gained respect from other teams, but we want to keep [on this] roll and just go for it," said defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who scored Monday in his first game back after missing nine because of a virus.
"We've got the one big game in front of us."
One that hardly would have been predicted.
"Nobody expected us to be in this situation," said Montreal defenseman PK Subban, whose solid play has belied his rookie status. "We've just got to get ready to play."
Montreal also has the advantage of having won Game 6 in what was an elimination game for the Canadiens.
"I'm sure after winning the game, they're going to try to build off of that momentum and go back and talk about their Game 7 against Washington," Bylsma said. "We have to mentally refocus and regroup, go back to Mellon Arena and put our best game out for Game 7."
The Canadiens have gotten great performances from winger Mike Cammalleri, who has six goals in the series, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who the past five games has given up nine goals on 160 shots.
Penguins star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have just one goal each in the series, while goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has a shutout and had not given up more than three goals in a game until Game 6.
"We know it's going to be a great challenge for us," said forward Maxim Lapierre, who made some slick moves to score the Game 6 winner.
"We know what to expect from them, from their fans, and we just need a good start in Pittsburgh."
One of the keys is a team's approach to playing in what could be a pressure cooker.
"You enjoy it," Penguins forward Mike Rupp said. "If you handle it [as stress-filled], you're probably not going to do very well. I feel pretty confident in our group. Very confident, actually. We're pretty relaxed right now, and understand what's at stake. I expect all of us to bring our 'A' game."
Rupp was not with the Penguins last year for those Game 7s and the Stanley Cup title, but the team -- and those memories -- remains relatively intact.
"Experience is a good thing to draw upon, and we have that from previous [series], but it's also about it now being down to one game," Bylsma said. "[The Canadiens] have experience as well from Round 1 in a similar situation on the road.
"I'm not going to give either team the upper hand in that regard. They have experience; we have experience. This is a one-game [playoff] to see who moves on to the conference finals."
First Published May 12, 2010 12:00 am