The Penguins didn’t overreact. They didn’t change their lineup. They still played well, albeit not as well as they did in the first game. They scored first and didn’t have to play from behind. They won their first playoff game since 2018. They will play on Sidney Crosby’s birthday. They will not be playing for survival in Game 3.
A big reason for the Penguins tying the series up was the play of Matt Murray. He was excellent in Game 2. He wasn’t as tested as Price and there were stretches where he really didn’t have much to do because of the power plays, but he came up big consistently. The Canadiens could have had as many as three goals if not for big saves. The same logic being applied to Carey Price being able to be a factor can also be applied to Matt Murray. They’ve done it in the past. Neither had a great year and Murray has been worse, but both goaltenders were great last night. It could have easily been a high scoring game. Matt Murray is now .935 in the series, certainly good enough even if the other guy is playing lights out.
The power play continues to be bad. I don’t know why it is so complicated to get people in the right spots. They put Hornqvist back on the top unit and he did his thing when given pucks in his area, but it isn’t enough. Malkin is still on the left side of the power play. Yes, he can still do some dangerous things from there. It is because he is an immense talent. He could do even more dangerous things if you consistently put him in the spot that gets the most out of his abilities. The closest he got to the right circle on the power play for an extended period of time last night was when he was in the penalty box for one of the Penguins power plays in the second period. Although, you can’t complain about not playing the right circle if they are never able to break in the puck in the first place. With an average power play the Penguins are up 2-0 in the series and Crosby likely doesn’t even have to play on his birthday. Instead we have a power play reluctant to find their 2v1’s and utilize skill strengths of personnel.
A huge part of the game was the Penguins playing from in front and it was none other than Sidney Crosby scoring for the second consecutive game. Huge goal and one that highlighted a lot of the things that make him great. He started everything in his own end with a great exit pass. He works his butt off to get up the ice and beat Joel Armia back, and he has the ability to freeze the best goaltenders from moving before they know the puck has already been shot through their five-hole. It was a brilliant sequence and had huge implications on how the game played out.
You know this goal reminded me of another pretty famous Penguins goal. Shades of Lemieux and Jagr on a famous December night
Lemieux and Crosby both start the play with a cross-ice pass in the same spot on the ice. They pass it to the best winger on the team. The best Penguins winger (Jagr, Guentzel) Gretzky curls to the forehand to set up the pass across. Crosby and Lemieux race up the ice to the far side. The third wheels on each line (Hrdina/Sheary) both center drive up the middle. Crosby being a lefty changed it from being a one-timer, but I thought the similarities were pretty cool regardless.
Conor Sheary contributed defensively on the first Penguins goal, but he was the star for the second goal. He used his speed to dust the Canadiens up the ice and create the 2v1 the ultimately ended up being the game winning goal.
His speed is why he is where he is on the depth chart. It can create positive situations out of nowhere. Sheary will receive a lot of praise today because of his assist on the game winning goal, but I think he actually played better in Game 1 where he was panned by many. He didn’t get the results in Game 1, but he did in Game 2. Credit to Mike Sullivan for not panicking and changing course when the process was good in Game 1 for the Crosby line.
Coach Sullivan: "There was a lot of the game that we really liked. After watching the film, it just provided that much more affirmation. That's what I told our players today. There are areas we can get better, but by no means was it a game we were overly discouraged about." -MC
Marcus Pettersson is going to need to figure out a way to play better in Game 3. He was terrible in Game 2. He was unsure with the puck for the majority of the game and it was noticeable early on when he had a zone entry and just gave the puck to a Canadiens defender who almost turned Montreal’s counter attack the other way. Things didn’t get much better as the game progressed. John Marino was hampered as a result and so was the team. He was giving me bad Maatta vibes, but with worse hands. He was given a similar contract and I think I’m going to have similar thoughts about him as a player.
Speaking of Maatta he had a run in with Connor McDavid last night and it went exactly the way you think it went
Not many bigger speed mismatches in the league than those two.
Jake Guentzel is taking a beating so far this series. Through the first two games it is clear Montreal is not going to let him off the hook if at all possible. They know he is coming off major shoulder surgery and are make a point to finishing their checks on him. Structurally, I have minimal concerns about Guentzel’s shoulder. He should be healed by now. Mentally, it probably isn’t fun coming off an injury like that and being a prime focus of the opposition. He still finished with a goal and an assist.
The third line was better. They still didn’t show much as far as being a regular threat. Patrick Marleau did have a good look at scoring late in the game, but that was about it. Patrick Marleau chasing a Cup is a great story on the surface, but in practice it has been underwhelming to this point. He has not fit. He was traded for because Jake Guentzel wasn’t going to be anywhere close to being ready for the playoffs at the time. Now Guentzel is back and Zucker occupies the other top six left wing spot. It leaves him without a natural home on a line and it shows.
The penalty kill for the Penguins aren’t getting as much work as the power play, but unlike the power play they are actually doing their job. The Penguins did not allow a single shot while shorthanded in Game 2.
The Penguins will go “on the road” for Game 3 when they travel to a different locker room and a different bench on Friday.