The second period has been a shootout.
The Penguins started the second period at a disadvantage, with Chris Kunitz in the penalty box after a cross-checking penalty in the 20th minute of the first period of their Eastern Conference semifinal with Montreal.
The Canadiens fired five shots on goal in the first 4:08, blistering Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with scoring attempts. Fleury responded with one fantastic save after another, going full butterfly to stop a Tomas Plekanec point-blank shot.
The Penguins responded with an assault of their own, and Jaroslav Halak was game. He made a pad save of a Matt Cooke wrister from the left circle and stopped Evgeni Malkin on a two-on-one breakaway with Sidney Crosby.
Fleury might have made the best save so far, blocking one shot with his chest and then flopping onto his stomach and swiping a loose puck out of the crease with the backhand blade of his stick.
After combining for 15 shots in the first period, the teams already have 30 attempts midway through the second.
The second period has been a shootout.
Kris Letang scored his fourth goal in 11 playoff games on a power play to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Montreal at 18:18 of the first period of Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
That’s one more tally than he had in all of the regular season.
Evgeni Malkin set up Letang’s one-timer from the top of the left circle by dragging a defender across the middle and dumping a drop pass. With the help of a Bill Guerin screen positioned in front of defenseman Roman Hamrik, Letang beat goalie Jaroslav Halak high to his stick side.
The Penguins are now 7-of-16 on the man-advantage, a playoffs-best 43.7-percent conversion rate. It’s even more incredible considering Washington’s league-best power play went 1-for-33 against Montreal in the first round.
The Penguins outshot the Canadiens, 9-6, and took a one-goal lead into the first intermission, but a cross-checking penalty at the horn will put Chris Kunitz in the box to start the second period.
The Penguins pulled a surprise by using Crosby and Malkin together on the top line on their first shift – and again later in the period, with Kunitz on the left wing – in a move to generate some scoring.
The lines shook out to look mostly like this:
Pascal Dupuis-Malkin-Max Talbot
Matt Cooke-Jordan Staal-Tyler Kennedy
Mike Rupp-Mark Letestu-Craig Adams
= At 2:46 of the first period, Montreal got a scare when Halak extended his left leg to block a backhander by Rupp, then bowed his head on the ice. Halak appeared to be in pain, but never left the ice.
= Rupp and Guerin both missed the Game 4 defeat for undisclosed reasons, but returned for Game 5. Rupp returned with intensity, crashing the boards to set up Adams for a point-blank shot, but it took Guerin a few shifts to get going.
= At 6:10, Montreal got a second scare when Maxim Lapierre blocked a slap shot by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik and then had difficulty getting back to the bench.
= The Penguins gave up a Michael Cammelleri breakaway after Crosby won a draw in the offensive zone when defensemen Alex Goligoski and Jordan Leopold froze and allowed the puck to slip between them. The Penguins got a break when goalie Marc-Andre Fleury turned away Cammalleri’s wrister.
= Montreal defenseman Hal Gill has helped keep Crosby without a goal this series, but the Penguins captain exacted a small measure of revenge with 5:40 left in the first period by catching him off balance after clearing the puck from his zone. Crosby threw a shoulder into Gill, knocking the 6-foot-7, 241-pounder backwards onto the ice.
The Penguins are getting ready for the opening face-off of Game 5, and they will do so with forwards Bill Guerin and Mike Rupp – a pair with a powerful net-front presence – back in the lineup and disappointments Ruslan Fedotenko and Alexei Ponikarovsky as healthy scratches.
The Penguins can only hope to improve their 2-3 playoff record at Mellon Arena, considering their 5-0 road record was snapped with a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night at Bell Centre, which evened their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2-2.
Part of the problem in Montreal is that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby hasn’t scored a goal at Bell Centre since his rookie debut there in 2006.
So the Penguins are trying to solve that slump for Crosby, who has gone five games without a goal.
For the Penguins’ four French-Canadians, Montreal was a mixed homecoming.
But they did enjoy the celebration of hockey in the boisterous playoff atmosphere at Bell Centre.
Behind third-period goals by Maxim Lapierre and Brian Gionta, the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Penguins, 3-2, in Game 4 on Thursday night at Bell Centre.
Their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series is now even at 2-2.
Now, it’s really noisy.
Bell Centre is rocking after Brian Gionta scored the go-ahead goal, shooting a puck that ricocheted off Penguins defenseman Kris Letang’s skate and skipped past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 3:40 of the third period.
The Canadiens now lead, 3-2.
And to make matters worse for the Penguins, Montreal has a power play after Matt Cooke was called for tripping.
Bell Centre is going crazy, as the Canadiens have tied it at 2-2 on a third-period goal by Maxim Lapierre.
Lapierre scored his second playoff marker at 2:07, picking up the rebound off a Mathieu Darche miss, circling behind the net and slipping the puck behind the right skate of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Darche and Marc-Andre Bergeron assisted.
After taking only three shots in the first period in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Montreal Tuesday night at Bell Centre the Penguins came out guns ablaze.
They fired 15 shots on net, to the Canadiens’ 6.
More to the point, the Penguins also had 10 attempts blocked and six others that missed their target. Montreal had two shots blocked and one miss.
Sidney Crosby and Matt Cooke took three shots each, as the Penguins set a furious tempo by taking the play to the Canadiens’ end early after falling into a 1-0 deficit.
Here’s another important statistical line: one Penguins center played 3:26 of ice time on six shifts, taking one shot, having another blocked, with one hit, one takeaway while going 2-0 on face-offs.
It belongs to Jordan Staal, who made a surprising return from surgery Friday night to repair a severed tendon in his right big toe.
It took 41 minutes, 16 seconds for either team to score in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series at Bell Centre.
Tonight, before you could blink, the Canadiens and Penguins scored within a span of 1:03 of each other.
Then, the Penguins tallied again.
Center Tom Pyatt gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 2:34 on a wrister from the left half-boards, his first point of the playoffs. Winger Max Talbot answered with an unassisted goal, his second of the playoffs, a backhander on a two-on-one breakaway with Evgeni Malkin to tie it at 1-1 at 3:27.
That play was sparked when Ruslan Fedotenko sprawled out to poke the puck away from rookie defenseman PK Subban at the Canadiens’ blue line.
Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal, his third of the playoffs. Kunitz shot it from the slot after a behind-the-net feed from Sidney Crosby, who increased his playoffs scoring lead to 17 points.
That wasn’t Superman skating with the Penguins.
But here’s a warning from Trib beat writer Rob Rossi:
Don’t tug on Jordan Staal’s sweater.
The status of both Staal and winger Bill Guerin for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series at Montreal remains undecided.
If and when Staal returns, don’t be surprised if he’s wearing these.
In the meantime, Mark Letestu has come to the Penguins’ rescue.
The stars of the 2-0 victory in Game 3, however, were undoubtedly Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded a hometown shutout and Evgeni Malkin, who got back to scoring goals.
That’s where the Canadiens came up empty.
The victory kept the Penguins perfect on the road.
But bad news could be waiting at home, columnist Joe Starkey writes, if NBC keeps ruining the Pens’ outdoor party.
Follow more on “Sitting Rinkside” tonight for Game 4.
Geno answered the Bell.
Evgeni Malkin ended his four-game goal-less streak with a power-play goal at 1:16 of the third period, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead in Game 3 against Montreal with a one-timer from the right point.
Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski assisted.
The goal was Malkin’s fifth in the playoffs and fourth on the advantage.