There were a couple of moments in the Penguins' 3-2 overtime loss to the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup qualifying round where they'll surely look back and wonder "What if ... ?"
Right out of the gate, the ice in Toronto was heavily tilted in the Penguins' favor, recording 10 shots on goal to the Canadiens' one in the first six minutes. They weren't able to capitalize on that momentum, and Montreal took a two-goal lead off of a first-period bad bounce from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and a second-period Nick Suzuki goal off of a 2-on-1 that beat Matt Murray glove side.
Sidney Crosby finally beat Carey Price with a bank shot from below the goal line midway through the second period:
... and then Bryan Rust tied the game by poking a loose puck past price on a power play later in the same period:
But when golden opportunities fell into the Penguins' laps to take a lead in the third period, they failed.
The Penguins received seven power plays to the Canadiens' two in the loss, and they were only able to capitalize on one of them with Rust's goal.
"We had some good looks, some good chances," Justin Schultz said afterward of the power play's struggles throughout the game. "Obviously there's always room for improvement. I think we can do a better job of moving, supporting each other, outworking the PK. But I think we'll be fine."
Of the missed power play opportunities, the most egregious loss was the failed extended 5-on-3 early in the third period.
Phillip Danault got called for slashing 30 seconds into the third period, and Ben Chiarot's high-stick to Sidney Crosby's face 28 seconds later gave the Penguins a two-man advantage lasting 1:32. The Penguins only had one shot on goal in the entire two-man advantage, when Price stopped a wrist shot from Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins only attempted three more shots in the rest of the two-man advantage -- a Malkin shot that was blocked, and two more shots from Malkin that went wide. In the 28 seconds of 5-on-4 that followed, the Penguins only recorded one more shot attempt, a slap shot from Malkin that was stopped by Price.
"I think we probably could have moved the puck a little bit quicker," Rust said of the 5-on-3. "I think anytime you can zip it around a little bit, it gets that penalty kill a little bit. I think we did a pretty good job of trying to get some shots to the net and getting some puck retrievals. But obviously when the puck doesn't go in the net, there's obviously places to be better."
"Obviously it had an opportunity to be the difference tonight," Mike Sullivan said of the power play. "It wasn't. We'll go back to work tomorrow."
Sullivan pointed to more of a net presence, taking away sight lines, as something he would have liked to have seen more throughout the game, including on the power play.
With just 3:03 remaining in regulation, Conor Sheary was awarded a penalty shot. With a chance to give the Penguins the lead with such little time left on the clock, Sheary's shot went wide of the net and Price wasn't even tested:
The Penguins as a whole played a good game. They possessed the puck more than Montreal, they outshot Montreal 41-35, they attempted more even strength shots by a 66-55 margin, and they led in the high-danger shot attempts, 15-11.
But when the Penguins did make mistakes, Montreal was able to capitalize on those opportunities.
The opening goal from Kotkaniemi came after a rough sequence from Jack Johnson. First, Johnson missed an attempt to hit Kotkaniemi:
Then, in rejoining the play, Johnson ran into Zach Aston-Reese and knocked him out of position:
Johnson then pushed Kotkaniemi toward the net as the puck went off of Kotkaniemi and in:
Here it is all together:
The Canadiens' second goal from Suzuki came on an odd-man rush after Brian Dumoulin got caught pinching and lost the puck:
Then after trading chances back-and-forth for the first 13:57 of overtime, Johnson and Justin Schultz were caught off to the side of the net watching the action as Jeff Petry scored the game-winner:
"Luckily it's not a single elimination tournament we're going through here," Rust said. "I think we just have to heed the lessons. We did some really good things, our start was phenomenal. We had some really good chances. I think over the course of the game we did some really good things, there's always areas to clean up. And we're going to look at those things and we're going to come out even better."
• I thought that Murray was alright. He was a little out of position on that first goal, and the second goal of course went glove-side. Still, he had a few big saves, including one on a short-handed two-on-one shortly before Rust's tying goal.
Sullivan, when asked for his assessment of Murray's game, offered a succinct response.
"I thought he was solid."
• The ice was noticeably bad toward the end of the game, the third game at Scotiabank Arena that day. But players weren't looking to blame the ice for the loss.
"Both teams have to play on it," Schultz said.
• Nick Bjugstad is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in late May.
• Dominik Simon is sidelined until November after undergoing shoulder surgery on April 29.
• Zach Trotman is being held out this summer with what sounds like a lingering injury.
Sullivan’s lines and pairings:
Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Conor Sheary
Jason Zucker — Evgeni Malkin — Bryan Rust
Patrick Marleau — Jared McCann — Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese — Teddy Blueger — Brandon Tanev
Brian Dumoulin — Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson — John Marino
Jack Johnson — Justin Schultz
And for Claude Julien's Canadiens:
Tomas Tatar -- Phillip Danault -- Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin -- Nick Suzuki -- Joel Armia
Paul Byron -- Jesperi Kotkaniemi -- Artturi Lehkonen
Dale Weise -- Max Domi -- Jordan Weal
Ben Chiarot -- Shea Weber
Brett Kulak -- Jeff Petry
Xavier Ouellet -- Victor Mete
Game 2 is on Aug. 3. The full qualifying round schedule can be found here.
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