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Penguins solve Halak early

Alexei Ponikarovsky checks Montreal’s Ryan O’Byrne off the puck during Pittsburgh’s series-opening victory.

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Alexei Ponikarovsky checks Montreal’s Ryan O’Byrne off the puck during Pittsburgh’s series-opening victory.

PITTSBURGH — Less than 15 minutes into Friday's game, the Canadiens realized they weren't playing Washington anymore.

Everything that worked so perfectly against the Capitals failed against the Penguins, who might exploit a weakness better than any team in hockey.

Defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski each had a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh's 6-3 victory to open the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, and the Penguins shredded Montreal's penalty-killing unit that Washington never solved in the opening round.

Sidney Crosby set up two goals, and Jordan Staal and Sergei Gonchar also scored as the Pens' power play went 4-for-4.

The secret? According to Crosby, there was no secret.

"We talked about getting traffic, we talked about getting pucks through, and we executed — that's the difference," he said.

Both teams might be without key players in Game 2 as Staal (right leg) and Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov (lower body) sustained injuries.

Montreal turned aside rush after rush against Washington, becoming the first No. 8 seed to rally from a 3-1 series deficit, but the Penguins used a different strategy. They repeatedly screened goalie Jaroslav Halak and had their undefended point men pump one-timers at the net.

"They beat us in the special teams department," Montreal forward Scott Gomez said. "I mean there's a reason they hoisted the Cup last year. If you make mistakes, they're going to jump on them."

Penguins 2 2 2 6
Canadiens 1 1 1 3
Penguins lead series 1-0

First—1, Montreal, Subban 1, 4:30. 2, Pittsburgh, Gonchar 1 (Letang, Malkin), 8:38 (pp). 3, Pittsburgh, Staal 2 (Ponikarovsky, Goligoski), 13:27 (pp). PenaltiesMalkin, Pit (interference), 5:29; Gionta, Mon (tripping), 8:12; Gomez, Mon (roughing), 11:46; Moen, Mon (roughing), 11:46; Eaton, Pit (roughing), 11:46.

Second—4, Pittsburgh, Letang 3 (Crosby), 2:34 (pp). 5, Montreal, Cammalleri 6 (Gomez, Gionta), 15:27. 6, Pittsburgh, Adams 2 (Dupuis, Cooke), 18:36. PenaltiesMontreal bench, served by A.Kostitsyn (too many men), 1:09; Talbot, Pit (hooking), 10:52.

Third—7, Pittsburgh, Goligoski 2 (Crosby, Guerin), 2:59 (pp). 8, Montreal, Gionta 3 (Bergeron, Gomez), 12:29 (pp). 9, Pittsburgh, Guerin 3 (Kunitz, Orpik), 19:11 (en). PenaltiesGionta, Mon (delay of game), 1:14; Gomez, Mon (roughing), 9:17; Rupp, Pit, double minor (roughing), 9:17; Kunitz, Pit (slashing), 11:36; Gill, Mon (holding), 15:24; Fedotenko, Pit (diving), 15:24. Shots—Montreal 7-12-12—31. Pittsburgh 7-9-8—24. Power plays—Montreal 1 of 4; Pittsburgh 4 of 4. GoaliesMontreal, Halak 4-3-0 (20 shots-15 saves), Price (2:59 third, 3-3). Pittsburgh, Fleury 5-2-0 (31-28). A17,132 (16,940). T2:24. Referees—Chris Lee, Bill McCreary. LinesmenScott Driscoll, Jay Sharrers.

Around the league

CAPITALS: Coach Bruce Boudreau got the support of management two days after his team's stunning first-round loss. General manager George McPhee said Boudreau "is a really good coach" who will be there "for a very long time."

RED WINGS: GM Ken Holland said Jiri Hudler is returning to the team after being granted his release from Dynamo Moscow.

Penguins solve Halak early 05/01/10 [Last modified: Saturday, May 1, 2010 5:16pm]

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