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.