The Penguins stayed in the fight and at the end, they were the victors. In what was a tight game from start to finish, Pittsburgh managed to best the Canadiens in a 4-3 win thanks to Sidney Crosby’s game winner in a shootout.
While the Canadiens might still be irked about not having Carey Price in net, they can’t be upset that their second string goaltender is on fire. Condon has been solid in net going 2-0-1 last week that gave him star honors for the week. The news of Price staying out for another week has him in a top spot but not without pressure that continues to build. He went against the Penguins for the first time this season being pitted against some of the biggest names in the league.
Those names worked right away off the opening faceoff as Crosby won the puck and got it over to Gardena native Beau Bennett. He shot the puck that went off the stick of Pascal Dupuis who was perfectly near Condon scoring the puck behind the Montreal goaltender. It took the Penguins 13 seconds to take the lead giving Dupuis his second of the season and first since returning to the lineup from an injury.
The Habs would not let themselves fret over the early score and get into the thick of the game. Their first offensive rush occurred during a power play where P.K. Subban and Tomas Plekanec led the way into the Pittsburgh zone. The Czech found teammate Andrei Markov open to drive the puck behind Marc-Andre Fluery to notch his second of the season tying the game.
With the teams now playing even, it was a fight from both sides of the ice fighting to gain the lead. It went on for the remaining 15 minutes that even had a goal reviewed by officials who negated the score. Both teams were firing on al cylinders as well as sticks as they accumulated numerous shots on goal as well as scoring chances. It was Pittsburgh in the final minute that had the last laugh in the first period scoring on a shot from Phil Kessel.
The first year Penguin delivered a wrist shot from the far end that went off Olli Maata’s stick giving him his second of the season. By the time the dust had settled, the Canadiens and Penguins shot 27 times combined on the net making it an edge of your seat thriller so early into the competition.
The second started with a 4 on 4 situation as both teams got caught tripping leaving Pittsburgh with a short power play when it was all over. Though they made nothing of it, the Canadiens were moving the puck well while trying to maintain stability and not making penalties a precedent. At 7:47, the Habs made good on a takeaway in the neutral zone that Brendan Gallagher got hold of going on a breakaway to score his seventh and even things back with Pittsburgh.
They took the lead away seven minutes later on a shot from Brian Flynn that gave him his second while angering the Penguins. Crosby was called for a penalty behind the play pushing Tomas Fleischmann that gave the Habs a power play. Pittsburgh killed off the two-minute advantage but returning on even strength didn’t answer their one shot on goal through a big chunk of the period. Despite the shock of Pittsburgh lack of offense in the second, sitting down a goal kept them in reach of making the third period their time to come back.
It was a fight going into the third as they both fought for puck possession and time to flow the offense. The competitive spirit of Montreal had them solid on defense before quickly transitioning to an offensive attack. Their chances for an increase to the scoreboard went unanswered giving the Penguins some leverage.
They went on to take multiple shots on goal leading the way in the period but not yet on the score. Time was falling off the clock as Pittsburgh continued to march forward battling for a way to make a tie happen. Their chance came at 13:35 when the Penguins got onto an odd man rush with Patrick Hornqvist answering on the pass from Crosby. He went in shooting top shelf over Condon to score his third this season.
With six minutes left, the Penguins hoped that they could be the ones to overtake Montreal and make the end of the regulation a victory. Nothing of the time came easy for Pittsburgh as they had a back and forth fight with Montreal who wanted to pull off the upset. The Penguins were their biggest challenge so far and would be going into overtime as time came to a close signifying the start of 3 on 3 hockey for five minutes.
Montreal recorded the opening shot on goal in OT but despite making a stance they ended up causing a big problem for themselves. The Montreal bench got into trouble as they were caught for too many men on the ice adding a fourth player for Pittsburgh to play with. They took some close shots against Condon but none found their way during the power play. At the conclusion of the penalty, Montreal made a stab at the net during the final seconds but were stopped leading the teams to a shootout.
This was the first time Montreal played a shootout this season and only five from the bench have faced Fleury and scored. In the end it was Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais who were thrown for one by Fleury while David Perron and Crosby ended it with goals.
It was Condon’s first time playing in an NHL shootout and one he won’t soon forget. He made 31 saves on the night, which was a number suitable when playing against a strong force in the Eastern Conference. The fans celebrated his counterpart across the ice as he picked up his eighth win stopping 32 of 35 for a .914 save percentage.
While he and the Penguins celebrate a special win against one of the teams to beat, Montreal will trek on as they get back to Centre Bell to host Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.