Midgame lapse proves costly in loss to Montreal
Sidney Crosby battles for a loose puck with the Canadiens' Andrei Markov in the first period at Mellon Arena last night.
Josh Gorges upends Erik Christensen in front of Montreal's net in the second period last night at Mellon Arena.
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Could be that Carey Price will be the next great Montreal goaltender, a worthy heir to the legacy of Georges Vezina and Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy.
Certainly, nothing about his performance in the Canadiens' 3-2 victory against the Penguins at Mellon Arena last night suggests that Price isn't capable of great things.
He finished with 26 saves, and came through with some quality stops when his team needed them most.
But the course of this game was determined as much by what the Penguins (1-2) failed to do -- mostly, put together a solid 60 minutes -- as anything Price or his teammates did.
"He played pretty well for them, made some big saves, but I think we kind of beat ourselves," right winger Colby Armstrong said. "They played well, but we fell asleep there in the second period for a bit, and it hurt us."
By coach Michel Therrien's reckoning, they began to doze off immediately after Ryan Whitney punched a rebound past Price at 7:08 of the second to put the Penguins up, 1-0.
"The first half of the game, we were hungry to win," Therrien said. "[After] we scored that first goal, we made a lot of mental mistakes."
The litany of errors included unduly long shifts, bad penalties and worse decision-making. To say nothing of a striking lack of focus and urgency, two commodities that contributed greatly to their 105-point season in 2006-07.
"We don't have the fire in our eyes like we did last year," Therrien said. "We need more desperation in our game, because we're not going to win many games with no desperation.
"It's pretty simple. We can do the pompons. We can have the fans cheering. It's got to start with these guys. Right now, I don't think we have the desperation."
The Penguins professed to be pleased with their start -- "I thought we played better early on," center Sidney Crosby said -- although Price wasn't tested very often during the first period.
"[The Penguins] really helped me get into the game by giving me some longer shots early," he said.
The Penguins' best chance came during a flurry with about 35 seconds to go, when Price stopped Ryan Malone from the left hash and Crosby put the rebound off the goalpost from the left side of the crease.
Price made good stops on Darryl Sydor and Crosby early in the second, but the Penguins broke through on Whitney's power-play goal at 7:08.
That could have turned the game in their favor but instead of pushing for another, the Penguins threw their game into neutral. Or reverse.
"If we stay on the pedal and keep at them, you never know," right winger Mark Recchi said. "We could have made it 2-0. Give them some credit. They played a good game. They stuck with it, and we didn't."
Montreal pulled even on a man-advantage goal by Tomas Plekanec at 13:07, when his shot from below the right dot caromed off goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.
With three minutes to go in the second period, former Penguin Alex Kovalev put Montreal in front, 2-1, beating Fleury from the right dot.
"That second period, we just fell asleep," Armstrong said.
Andrei Markov delivered a telling blow at 2:51 of the third, when he threw in a rebound from inside the left circle, but Maxime Talbot revived the Penguins with his first of the season 57 seconds later. Talbot took a no-look, backhand feed from Evgeni Malkin from behind the goal line and threw a shot by Price from the inner edge of the left circle to pull the Penguins back within one.
"We played well until we got the third goal," Canadiens center Saku Koivu said. "And they scored right back."
The Penguins could not get another puck past Price, however, as his teammates did everything possible to disrupt scoring chances.
"You have to give them credit," Crosby said. "They were taking away passing lanes and shooting lanes, getting their body in front of pucks."
And, in the process, making the point that they weren't terribly impressed by anything the Penguins did a year ago.
"We're not sneaking up on anybody, that's for sure," Recchi said. "We know it's going to be hard."
First Published October 11, 2007 12:03 am