Montreal won one of their two games in Pittsburgh, and now the Pens and Habs get to go to the Bell Centre to see what might occur on Montreal’s home ice. Jaroslav Halak returned to his series-winning form in Game 2, and the zone defense Montreal played so well against the Capitals was back as well. The players blocked shots and Hal Gill led the way in that department again (can I emphasize how important he is to our defense, now that Markov is gone?). Josh Gorges has gone from an occasional scratch to our prime shutdown guy with Gill all of a sudden – playing with Hal has had a great effect on the young D. And PK Subban has done exactly what we needed him to to – brought strong, dynamic, energetic offense from the blue line without the defensive miscues of Marc-Andre Bergeron.
But then there’s Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, and Brian Gionta leading the charge. The Little Big Three combined for 5 points, including all three goals, on Sunday. Cammalleri scored two gorgeous goals, the first when he kicked the puck up off his shinpad and batted it in with his stick past a diving Marc-Andre Fleury, and the second when Tomas Plekanec sprung him between the D into a breakaway, beating Fleury high on his glove side with a wicked wrist shot – Joe Sakic style (those who know me know this is about the greatest hockey praise I can deliver).
Good things happen to those who play team hockey, and Jacques Martin, who’s hiring I originally criticised, has a team of players that were considered goons (Gill), has-beens (Gomez), under-achievers (Cammalleri), and unexpected surprised (Halak) come together to play great team hockey. When their team hockey was strong they put the best individual player in the NHL to shame. Now they managed to do the same to a strong team offense. If Montreal can win twice at the Bell Centre, they take a commanding 3-1 lead back to Pittsburgh. We’ll have to see how Crosby and Malkin respond tomorrow night.