Penguins fall to Canadiens, 3-0
Canadiens forward Brian Gionta celebrates a goal by teammate Travis Moen in front of Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman Matt Niskanen in the second period of Saturday's game at Consol Energy Center.
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Coach Dan Bylsma yanked goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out of the Penguins' game against Montreal Saturday at Consol Energy Center a little more than six minutes into the second period.
Seemed perfectly logical.
Not so much because Fleury had allowed three goals on 12 shots, but because pulling the 18 guys skating in front of him wasn't terribly practical.
No matter how much some of them deserved it.
The Penguins (39-22-8) have earned a lot of respect -- and points -- with the way they have competed and battled while relying on an injury-diluted lineup the past few months. They didn't get any of either for their showing in a 3-0 loss to the Canadiens.
While it won't go down as their most disappointing effort of the season, it figures to at least be a medalist.
"There's not much to say after that one," left winger James Neal said. "We were flat. It wasn't the Pittsburgh Penguins we're used to."
Game: Edmonton Oilers vs. Penguins, 3:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
TV, radio, Internet: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9), http://penguins.nhl.com.
Probable goaltenders: Devan Dubnyk for Oilers; Brent Johnson for Penguins.
Penguins: Are 9-4-3 vs. Western Conference. ... Are 9-3-2 on second of back-to-back games. ... Ben Lovejoy is plus-8 in past 18 games.
Oilers: Are 8-8-1 vs. Eastern Conference. ... Tom Gilbert was fourth in NHL with 156 blocked shots before games Saturday. ... Are 7-1 when Jordan Eberle has a multi-point game.
Of note: Gilbert (327 games) and Andrew Cogliano (315 games) have never missed a game in their careers.
The Penguins' miseries weren't confined to what happened on the ice. Their wretched afternoon was punctuated late in regulation when center Jordan Staal, who was sitting on the bench, was hit in face by the blade of Montreal winger Andrei Kostitsyn's stick.
Staal adjourned to the locker room and, while preliminary indications were that he did not appear to be seriously injured, Bylsma, the Penguins' coach, said he has not received a report on him.
Staal wasn't the only one who wasn't around for the end of the game. Fleury had been removed much earlier because Bylsma was looking for a way to jolt his team, and figured that replacing Fleury with Brent Johnson might do it.
And it did.
Just not nearly enough to have a meaningful impact on the outcome.
"The consensus in the room was that we weren't quite ready to go, as a group," center Mark Letestu said. "Some guys were, but right now, with the group we have, we need all guys going, and that wasn't the case."
Perhaps the Penguins' only consolation is that they won't have to wait long for a chance to earn a measure of redemption; Edmonton, which is last in the overall standings, will visit Consol Energy Center at 3:08 p.m. today.
If they're lucky, they'll rebound they way Montreal did after a 4-1 loss in St. Louis Thursday.
"We had a big bounce-back game," Cammalleri said. "Carey [Price, the Montreal goalie] was awesome and solid, and it was a good group win."
The Penguins remain fourth in the Eastern Conference, but not by much. They were two points ahead of fifth-place Tampa Bay, pending the outcome of the Lightning's game Saturday night at Florida, and are just three in front of the Canadiens.
"Our goal is home ice [advantage in Round 1 of the playoffs]," Letestu said. "Nobody seems to be losing ground. Everybody seems to be playing good hockey right now and grabbing points whenever possible."
In retrospect, the Penguins peaked 16 seconds into the opening period, when Dustin Jeffrey put a shot off the right goalpost from the left dot.
Had the puck sailed a few inches to the left, perhaps the course of the game would have been radically different. More likely, though, Montreal simply would have won by two goals instead of three.
Indeed, there is reason to suspect the Penguins would have made enough mistakes to give the Canadiens as many goals as they needed to claim a couple of points.
Montreal scored its first goal, by Tomas Plekanec 46 seconds into the game, because of a blown assignment off a faceoff, and its second after a Kris Letang pass was intercepted in the neutral zone to trigger an odd-man counterattack.
"They didn't have to work very hard to get those two goals that put us behind the eight-ball," Bylsma said.
Cammalleri put the game out of reach -- and Fleury out of the game -- at 6:51 of the second, after he was left unchecked in front of the net and converted a Jeff Halpern feed.
"We made too many mistakes," Penguins winger Pascal Dupuis said, "and they took advantage of it."
In a way that a simple goalie swap wasn't going to change.
First Published March 13, 2011 12:00 am