Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Habs/Penguins Game 3: Fleury outshines Halak


So far in the 2010 NHL Playoffs, the goaltending story has belonged to the Montreal Canadiens Jaroslav Halak. On Tuesday night though, his counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury, turned away 18 shots to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-0 Game Three win.

The Canadiens dominated the Penguins for the first twenty minutes, limiting them to just three shots on goal. Montreal managed seven shots, with eleven that were blocked.

Most impressive was the Canadiens blanking Pittsburgh completely on a penalty kill. Not a single shot found Jaroslav Halak or the back of the net.

The second period was nearly a reversal of fortune for the two teams, with Pittsburgh mounting the pressure on Halak and the Canadiens.

The physical play and face washes been progressing through the first 40 minutes. It reached a peak at the end of the second period, with both lines getting in each others faces.

The third period opened with two of the Canadiens best penalty killers, Hal Gill and Josh Gorges, in the penalty box. Evgeni Malkin took advantage of the Penguins power play, blasting a one-timer past Halak at 1:16.

The game appeared to be a case of nerves for Canadiens rookie P.K. Subban. The young rearguard logged over 22 minutes, but made several uneventful one-man rushes and at times appeared to be trying to do everything.

From then on it was all Fleury who made several key saves against the Canadiens, including a huge one off the stick of Mike Cammalleri and another on Tomas Plekanec during a late Penguins penalty kill.

“You don’t get this far without goaltending,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. “Flower’s done a great job for us. It’s huge to get those big saves late on the road and keep the score the way it was.”

One of Montreal’s key bright spots, through the night, was limiting Crosby to just one shot on goal. The Canadiens have kept the Penguins star  pointless for the second straight game. At the same time, a peculiar stat on the Canadiens score sheet shows forward Mathieu Darche benched for the entire game.

Pascal Dupuis put in the empty-net goal 19:45 to ice it for the Penguins

The white wash was Fleury’s first in this season’s playoffs and the fourth in his post-season career. Not to be outdone, Halak had a 23 save performance in a losing cause. Either way, player agent Allan Walsh can’t complain right now as he represents both goaltenders.

“It was a patient type game by both teams,” Cammalleri said. There wasn’t too many chances either way.

Cammalleri also acknowledged the Penguins often overlooked playing style, “Because they have such dynamic players, I think people underestimate the structure that this team plays in. They play a very disciplined style and people get a false sense of how they play the game.”

Pittsburgh takes a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four going Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

Game’s Three Stars: 1. Marc-Andre Fleury 2. Evgeni Malkin 3. Brian Gionta

game photo: AP/Canadian Press (Ryan Remiorz)

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