PITTSBURGH -- In the annual playoff rite of attrition, the Penguins won the battle, 6-3, but they tied the war. For Pittsburgh, the casualty was center
Even a subpar Markov is a big part of the Montreal numerical equation. Check it out. From 2005-06 until the start of this season, the Canadiens absolutely bumbled around without him. The record: 6-19-3. Markov was injured in the opener this season when he got tangled with goalie
Markov was a classic case of starting with injury and adding insult. Cooke, who of those guys who is presumed guilty until proven innocent, rocked him with a seismic hit in the corner. This was not a high hit to an unsuspecting opponent -- c.f.
The power-play goal was one of a franchise-record-tying four for the Penguins. After killing 32-of-33 penalties against Washington, the Canadiens penalty kill was, well, imperfect, allowing Pittsburgh to go four-for-four, all on back door plays or shots from the slot. Halak, who had stopped 131 of the last 134 Capitals shots, allowed three goals on eight shots and five on 20 before yielding to Price some five minutes into the third period.
Montreal should be able to mix and match defensemen the rest of the series with
For a team upon whom the hockey gods had been smiling beatifically -- home ice guaranteed until the final with the elimination of the three top Eastern Conference seeds, no bête noire in New Jersey lurking down road -- this could prove to be even a more significant injury. The Penguins go three deep down the middle with
"He's a big part of our team," Crosby said of Staal. "It's not something that's easy to deal with but ... there's no sense feeling sorry for ourselves. There's nothing we can do. It's out of our control. If anything, it's an opportunity for someone else to play some key minutes and fill his role. Not an easy one to fill, but it's a great challenge."
So this is the bottom line: the Canadiens, with or without Markov, were unlikely to knock off a team that has shown that gritty and dependable is more effective than spectacular and fragile - like Washington.
The Penguins, meanwhile, have a better chance if not bigger goals. If Staal is missing for any length of time, his absence will be more telling.