Penguins stumble into pre-break matchup with Habs
Posted on: 27 Jan, 2024 at 12:37 PM
Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Whatever feelings the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens take into a break in their schedule will be set in their meeting Saturday.
It is the final game for both teams before going into a bye week and the All-Star break, and both teams are in dire need of points as they attempt to climb into a playoff spot.
The Penguins picked up a precious point Friday when Evgeni Malkin scored a tying goal in the final minute of regulation before they fell 3-2 in a shootout against the visiting Florida Panthers.
That left Pittsburgh with a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) and a 1-2-3 mark over the past six games.
"We lost the last two games (and) we did not play great," Malkin said. "We understand we're fighting for the playoffs. We (fought) all night."
The shootout loss also left the Penguins 1-2-2 in their past five home games.
Pittsburgh went 1-for-8 on its sagging power play against Florida, finally pulling Malkin and veteran defenseman Erik Karlsson off the top unit late in the game.
"We had some looks that we didn't necessarily finish on," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "We've just got to stick with it.
"We made some tweaks down the stretch there at the end with some different personnel groups. I don't know where we'll go moving forward, but we'll discuss that as a coaching staff."
The back-to-back games could put the Penguins at a disadvantage, especially after the game against the Panthers was highly hard-fought and extended to a shootout.
"It's always a physical battle against them," Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang said.
The Penguins topped the Canadiens 4-3 in a shootout in the teams' only meeting so far this season, on Dec. 13 in Montreal.
The Canadiens are two points behind the Penguins in the heated race among the teams chasing the two Eastern Conference wild-card spots.
Montreal will be without forward Brendan Gallagher, who on Friday was suspended for five games by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for an illegal hit to the head of the New York Islanders' Adam Pelech on Thursday.
Despite the Gallagher incident, the Canadiens emerged with an emotional 4-3 home win over the Islanders.
Not only did it mark the return to Montreal of Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy, the Islanders' new coach, but it was also a game in which the Canadiens took a three-goal lead, gave it up and then won when Sean Monahan scored with 2:12 left in regulation.
"It was a pretty complete game from us, and that's what we needed -- the win," said Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki, who scored his first goal in 11 games.
Monahan also had been struggling to score. He scored twice on Thursday, his first goals in eight games, although he had seven assists in the interim. Monahan logged a team-high five shots on goal against the Islanders as the Canadiens ended a three-game losing streak.
"I think (Monahan) is playing some good hockey," Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said.
Montreal named Jake Allen as its starting goaltender for Saturday. The Penguins are expected to go with Tristan Jarry after Alex Nedeljkovic started on Friday.
--Field Level Media