NHL: Fleury's 32 saves lead Penguins past Canadiens 2-1
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves, Kris Letang scored on a power play after accidentally setting up Montreal's decisive goal in the previous game and the Pittsburgh Penguins moved within a victory of eliminating the Canadiens by winning 2-1 tonight.
Sergei Gonchar also scored as the reigning Stanley Cup champions seized a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals, with Game 6 set for Montreal on Monday night. The Canadiens, held to four goals in the last three games, must win to force a Game 7 on Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby remained without a goal in the series and Evgeni Malkin also didn't find the net — he did set up Letang's pivotal goal late in the first period — but the Penguins had enough offense without their stars to support Fleury's best game of the playoffs.
Trailing 2-0, Montreal pulled goalie Jaroslav Halak to create a 6-on-4 advantage after Pascal Dupuis went off for slashing with 2:26 remaining and Mike Cammalleri scored his ninth goal with 30 seconds to play. But it was much too late for the Canadiens, who couldn't solve Fleury much like the Penguins have struggled against Halak at times during a tightly played series.
The Penguins won 2-0 in Game 3 before losing 3-2 in Game 4, when Brian Gionta's decisive goal during a late Montreal comeback deflected off Letang's skate in the slot and into the net. But Fleury was under considerably more pressure and needed to make tougher saves than he did in Game 3.
Now, the eighth-seeded Canadiens will try to rally from a 3-2 deficit for the second successive round. They upset Washington after trailing 3-1, but the Stanley Cup champion Penguins have far more playoff experience than the Capitals did. Pittsburgh hasn't lost a 3-2 series lead since Florida won the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals in 1996.
Halak played another strong game, making 23 saves, but showed one weakness: one-timers from above the circles.
Letang, so upset with himself for letting in the winning goal in Game 4 that he didn't talk to reporters afterward, got the important first goal with a shot from the left point at 18:18 of the first period. Pittsburgh's seventh goal in 16 power-play chances to that point was created by Malkin, who controlled the puck for several seconds near the net to open a shooting lane for Letang.
The game's first penalty — crosschecking on Josh Gorges — led to the power play.
With Bill Guerin back after sitting out two games with an undisclosed injury, the Penguins also did a better job of putting bodies in front of the net to make it difficult for Halak to see the puck clearly.
Gonchar made it 2-0 midway through the second period while playing with a makeshift line of Mike Rupp, the recently recalled Mark Letestu and Malkin. Gonchar took Brooks Orpik's cross-ice pass a few feet in front of the blue line and drove a shot past Halak, who didn't react before the puck ricocheted off the back of the net.
A few minutes before, Montreal missed a prime opportunity to tie it when Fleury lunged to his left to turn aside Glen Metropolit's one-handed shot as he skated past the net.