Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher
Artturi Lehkonen – Max Domi – Joel Armia
Nick Cousins – Nick Suzuki – Jordan Weal
Matthew Peca – Nate Thompson – Riley Barber
Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber
Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry
Otto Leskinen – Cale Fleury
Carey Price – Cayden Primeau
Christian Folin, Mike Reilly
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Mete, Jesperi Kotkaniemi
This game could have had a very different result.
Less than three minutes into the contest, the Canadiens, with their top line on the ice, were in control of the puck in the offensive zone. Brendan Gallagher was characteristically creating havoc in front of the Pittsburgh net engaged in a battle with defenceman John Marino.
Phillip Danault had the puck with his back up against the right half wall looking to make a play. Tomas Tatar was gliding through the faceoff circle on the same side of the ice heading to the goal. Shea Weber was at the faceoff dot at the opposite side of the ice waiting to unleash a one-timer.
Danault chose poorly trying to thread the puck through two sticks to Ben Chiarot who had positioned himself at the left point despite the fact that Weber was on that same side. Danault’s pass was deflected by Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel.
The pass made it to Chiarot but arrived on the hop that he tried to control with his skate. It didn’t work. By the neutral zone, it was a three-on-one Penguins rush with Chiarot trying to defend Bryan Rust, Malkin and Guentzel.
That quickly became a two-on-zero with Rust setting up Guentzel for a tap-in. Carey Price had no chance. It was a mistake in positioning by Chiarot and a bad decision by Danault. The Penguins opened the scoring at the 2:59 mark of the game.
Canadiens fans were left wondering whether the offensively-minded Penguins would feast on odd-man rushes all night. They had seen that movie many times during the eight-game losing streak.
But it didn’t happen. The Canadiens tightened up their defensive game and reduced the chance-taking on offence. It was one of the more boring periods of Habs hockey — Price handled nine Pittsburgh shots while Montreal managed just five shots on goal — but they escaped the first frame trailing by just one.
The game opened up in the second period. Price had to make several good saves to keep his team close. Tristan Jarry was looking comfortable in the Penguins crease working on a franchise-setting shutout streak.
That streak came to an end at 177.15 minutes on a peculiar play. With the Canadiens on a power-play and not looking too threatening, a bouncing puck found its way to Gallagher in front of the Pittsburgh goaltender with Penguins exiting their zone. Gallagher fed a pass to Tatar who fanned on his shot.
But it was a knuckler that fooled Jarry ending his streak. The Canadiens, with persistence, had benefited from some puck luck.
Joel Armia and Weber each made strong, individual scoring plays before the second period ended resulting in a 3-1 Canadiens lead.
Price and the defence locked down the third period for a solid road win.
Claude Julien has changed tactics, asking his team to play more a defensively-oriented game, particularly without the puck. And tonight, they delivered.
Plus / Minus
▲ Carey Price, Joel Armia, Shea Weber, Brendan Gallagher, Artturi Lehkonen, Tomas Tatar, Otto Leskinen
▼ Jordan Weal, Max Domi