Artturi Lehkonen scored with 4:11 left in the third period, boosting the Montréal Canadiens a 2-0 win Friday in series-clinching Game 4 of their Stanley Cup qualification series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Habs’ Paul Byron set up the lone scoring play of what was mostly a plodding game, fighting through a hook to dish the puck to the net-front, where Lehkonen jammed it through a few sets of legs and in.
The Penguins, who entered this unprecedented 24-team summertime Cup tournament as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, lost a five-game series to the worst team to make the NHL postseason in modern history. Dating back to the end of their six-game loss to Washington two years ago, the Pens have dropped nine of their past 10 playoff games.
Tristan Jarry made his playoff debut for Pittsburgh and performed admirably, stopping 20 shots while taking over the crease from Matt Murray. But Carey Price prevailed over the series more than anyone, capping an impressive series with a 22-save shutout.
Playing on his 33rd birthday, Sidney Crosby was probably the Penguins’ best skater, as he was for the rest of the series. However, his three good chances misfired, including a drive off the crossbar with the game goal-less midway through the third.
The Penguins came out of the dressing room apparently convinced that the cautious route was the way to go after allowing four goals in Game 3 and falling behind in their first five-game series since the mid-1980s.
If so, that mission was accomplished, as the ‘visitors’ were noticeably more deliberate on the breakout, often reversing the puck and delaying until they found a lane into the neutral zone. They were successful in limiting turnovers, but they went through the first 20-plus minutes without a single high-danger scoring chance, per Natural Stat Trick accounting.
On the other hand, the Penguins had success choking off the Canadiens’ counterattack through two periods, allowing just 11 total shots on goal entering the third. The only moments of stress for Jarry involved wild caroms off the end boards and a couple of bouncing pucks in traffic.
Ironically, in a game played so tentatively, the Penguins got their best opportunity through 40 minutes off a glaring Habs mistake.
A botched line change handed Crosby and Guentzel a two-on-one rush from center ice, but Guentzel couldn’t gather Crosby’s quick pass until he was behind the net. He centered from there for Crosby, whose one-timer Price gobbled.
It seemed the type of game where special teams could break the ice, but the Penguins’ first power play — arriving in the in the latter half of the second — showed none of the renewed vigor the unit displayed in Game 3. Fortunately, Montréal again found no success against the stout Pens PK.
The start of the third signaled a jolt of attacking energy for both sides, starting with Byron’s slapper off the post from the left wing. Then Brendan Gallagher soared in for a short breakaway that Jarry denied with a sharp glove hand.
The Penguins had the next push, with Guentzel drawing a penalty and the top power play group working it around the zone with speed. However, the best chance went to Crosby, whose heavy blast from the slot rang the crossbar.