Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Playoffs, Day 21: Control, control, you must learn control

Yoda. Smart guy. Anyway. Control is the theme of the night, as one team got it back and another put an additional nail in someone's coffin.

Fleury shows quality is sometimes better than quantity as Penguins reclaim series lead
True story: I was thinking Monday that Marc-Andre Fleury needed to steal a game soon for the Penguins. He hasn't played poorly, except for Game 1 against Ottawa, but has a bad tendency to give up sub-par goals. Usually he'd make up for those with timely saves.

Half of that didn't happen on Tuesday. Fleury made just 18 saves, but two were dazzling pad stops on Mike Cammalleri and Tomas Plekanec in the third period while holding a lead and Pittsburgh earned home-ice advantage back following a 2-0 victory over Montreal. The Penguins lead the series two games to one. It was Fleury's first postseason shutout this year.

Fleury also made a handful of above-average saves in the first period, when the Canadiens showed a rare facet of their game: An aggressive attack as they tried to get an early lead. They held the Penguins to just three shots in the first period but managed only seven of their own. So Fleury wasn't exactly busy, and it might even be a small stretch to say he stole the game, but he had by far his best outing of the 2010 playoffs.

Pittsburgh weathered that early storm and dominated the second period, enjoying long stretches of possession in the Montreal zone. Jaroslav Halak made a couple sterling saves. He finished with 23.

One of those long shifts came late in the period, when the Penguins held the puck for well over a minute. Eventually, Sidney Crosby drew a penalty on Hal Gill. The power play carried over to the third period, and Evgeni Malkin fired a one-timer past Halak for his fifth of the playoffs and the eventual game-winner.

Fleury's saves on Cammalleri and Plekanec came after the goal as Montreal pushed for the tying marker. The Penguins held strong, and Pascal Dupuis scored into an empty net with 15 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Found: Patrick Marleau; puts Wings on brink
To quote Carolina play by play man John Forslund: Hey hey what do ya say! Patrick Marleau is alive. As a result, Detroit might not be for much longer.

San Jose capped a nice comeback seven minutes into overtime when Marleau converted a Joe Thornton pass on a 2-on-1 rush to defeat Detroit, 4-3, and give the Sharks a commanding 3-0 series lead. The odd-man break came when Red Wings forward Jason Williams fired a shot high and wide to the far side. The puck bounced past the other Detroit players, who had pinched, out to Thornton at center ice.

The Sharks trailed 3-1 after two periods before recovering to force overtime. Thornton got the comeback started by netting his second of the playoffs unassisted early in the frame, then Logan Couture caught Jimmy Howard napping and slipped a shot through Howard on a bad angle with 6:43 left to knot the score at 3-3.

Tomas Holmstrom put Detroit ahead 1-0 shortly after a Henrik Zetterberg goal was disallowed because of a distinct kicking motion. Daniel Cleary's late goal in the first period doubled the lead, but Devin Setoguchi countered even later, with four ticks left, for a 2-1 score at the intermission.

Zetterberg - who missed a penalty shot during the game - got the goal back early in the second period, and the 3-1 score held up until the third period.

Evgeni Nabokov made 32 saves for San Jose, which won each of the games in this series so far by the same score.

Stat of the night
1 - Shutouts in the regular season for Fleury, who handed Montreal its first playoff shutout at home since 1983, a stretch of 118 postseason contests.

Quote of the night
"It feels bad, but it's still not over. You still can't stop believing."
Howard. The thinking here is he's quoting the Journey song that Detroit plays near the end of games.

Wednesday predictions
Philadelphia 4, Boston 2
Vancouver 5, Chicago 3

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