Penguins defeat Canadiens in Game 2 of Cup Qualifiers, even series

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Matt Murray made 27 saves when the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Monday.

Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker and Jake Guentzel scored, and Conor Sheary had two assists for the Penguins, the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh had lost its previous seven postseason games since defeating the Washington Capitals 3-1 in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round on May 3, 2018.

Murray, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, has started the first two games this series after competing with Tristan Jarry for the starting role throughout training camp.

“That’s what you need to do as a goalie, just worry about the next shot,” Murray said. “Whether a goal goes in or you make a big save, it’s about the next one. So it’s a cliché, but it’s always one shot at a time.” 

Carey Price made 35 saves for Montreal, the No. 12 seed. He has made 74 saves on 78 shots in the first two games this series.

“Well, we knew [the Penguins] were going to come out hard, being down by a game,” Price said. “They executed that well and played a very solid 40 minutes. I thought things went well for them, and then I thought we responded fairly well in the third period, but they had gathered a lot of momentum by then.” 

The best-of-5 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 in Toronto, the hub city for the Eastern Conference, on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS, ATTSN-PT). The series winner advances to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The loser will have a chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft in the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery, to be held Aug. 10.

Crosby put the Penguins ahead 1-0 at 4:25 of the first period. After racing past Joel Armia through the neutral zone, Crosby took a pass from Guentzel and scored five-hole on a wrist shot from the left face-off circle for his second goal this postseason.

That goal tied Crosby with Doug Gilmour and Joe Sakic for eighth on the NHL’s all-time postseason points list (188).

“We felt pretty good about our game,” Crosby said. “We were generating good chances. I think they still had that push. They still had a few chances. [Murray] had make some big saves, especially in the third there. You have to expect that, but for the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job of playing the same way.”

Sheary set up Zucker for a tap-in to make it 2-0 with 5:19 remaining in the third period. 

Jesperi Kotkaniemi cut the lead to 2-1 with 2:09 remaining with his second goal of the postseason before Guentzel scored an empty-net goal, making it 3-1 with 10 seconds left.

“[Price] obviously made some huge saves that kept us in the game for the most part,” Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak said. “We had a chance to win that one, for sure. Just a couple bounces go their way. We’re pressing hard, but we couldn’t get it done tonight.” 

After going 1-for-7 on the power play in Game 1 Saturday, Pittsburgh did not score on five chances Monday. But with Patric Hornqvist back on the top unit, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he thought the power play did a “much better job.”

The Canadiens are 0-for-5 with the man-advantage this series after failing to convert on three opportunities Monday.

“I don’t know how many power plays that Pittsburgh has had. They haven’t scored, except for one goal there,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “So when I look around in the NHL, power plays are struggling or penalty kills are really good. It happens a lot in playoffs because you pre-scout teams a lot. 

“I think, again, our best players have to be our best players. Tonight, we had some guys that really struggled. And a lot of those guys happen to be on the power play.”

Montreal had a chance to tie it, 1-1, 14 seconds into the third period, when Kulak and Tomas Tatar went on a 2-on-1. Kulak passed to Tatar near the right post, but Murray pushed over to make a save on a snap shot with his right shoulder.

“I thought [Murray] was real solid again tonight,” Sullivan said. “There weren’t a ton of scoring chances in the first couple of periods. Montreal pushed hard down the stretch and they generated a couple of high-quality chances, and Matt made some big saves.

“For me, that’s what Matt does at this time of year. He makes big saves at key times that help us win games.”

NHL.com columnist Dave Stubbs contributed to this report 

 

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