After a stunning overtime win in Game 1, the Montreal Canadiens needed to be ready to hold off a determined Pittsburgh Penguins team in Game 2. The Canadiens, however, were not offensively ready at all, but they again managed to keep the game close due to the stellar play by Carey Price. Pittsburgh came out strong and controlled the flow of the game earning a 3-1 victory to tie the series.
Here are 3 takeaways from a not so eventful game in Toronto.
The Canadiens stunned the Penguins in Game 1 after taking a two-goal lead even though they were outshot 18-6 in the first period. The Penguins stormed back to tie the game going into the third. Then Price took over and kept his team in the game, which allowed defenseman Jeff Petry to score the game-winner in overtime.
In Game 2, the Canadiens came out very flat, not generating many quality shots and letting the Penguins control the flow of the game. None of the four lines could get anything going in the offensive zone and they looked off-balance.
The Canadiens’ passing was off, the top line of Brendon Gallagher, Phil Danault and Tomas Tatar didn’t seem to click at all, and the Nick Suzuki line wasn’t the same as in Game 1. However, Jonathan Drouin looked more engaged, but Joel Armia took too many penalties for that line to have any flow. Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s line did great defensively and provided the Canadiens with their only goal. The fourth line provided nothing at all.
For Game 3, head coach Claude Julien will have to do something to pick up the scoring. Moving Max Domi onto the wing of the second or third line would help, as well as replacing Dale Wiese and Jordan Weal, who have done nothing at all so far.
Penalty Kill and Price Still Dominate
As in Game 1, Price led the way, stopping 35 of 37 shots – for a total of 74 of 78 saves, a .949 save percentage (SV%) in the first two games. Price just kept doing Price things and, so far, he is shutting down any talk that he’s no longer the best in the world.
The penalty kill (PK) is also doing very well for the Canadiens: it held Pittsburgh’s power play (PP) to 1-7 in Game 1. In Game 2, the Penguins were held scoreless on the PP going 0-5 including a short 5-on-3. The Canadiens again didn’t take Artturi Lehkonen’s advice to stymie the Penguins’ PP by staying out of the box. In two games they have been shorthanded 12 times. The main factor has been Price, but the entire PK has been very effective.
Not only has the top PK unit of Danault and Lehkonen been keeping the Penguins’ PP at bay, but Suzuki and Paul Byron/Armia have been just as strong. If the Canadiens can stay out of the box, they should be able to generate better offense.
Kotkaniemi Is Leading the Way
The young Kotkaniemi now has two goals in two games for the Canadiens in this series: the same number as Sidney Crosby. Since his recovery from spleen surgery, Kotkaniemi has worked on his skating and size, and it shows. His skating is much stronger and he’s is winning races to the puck and getting himself open.
Since the series started, he has been strong on both sides of the ice and doing the little things that make him that much better. His confidence is growing with each game, and all he needs now is a little more ice time from Julien.
For the Canadiens to have any success in Game 3, Julien is going to have to switch things up and create some offense. The lines are stagnant and need a change to infuse some life into the team. Even with the Game 1 victory, the Canadiens’ offense is stale. Let’s hope with some changes the Habs can overcome the Game 2 loss.