It was as if the Stanley Cup was on the line and it was game seven. Thursday night in Pittsburgh the Habs and Penguins played some good old fashioned hard nosed hockey. A game that surely provided Pittsburgh residents with some evidence as what they could be missing should their Pens end up leaving town.
It was a game with a bit of everything, scoring, hitting, a rarely given these days major penalty and even the threat of intimidation circa the seventies.
Things got off to a raucous start as Sidney Crosby received a butt end at the beginning of play in the first; from a rebuttal was issued in the form of a hit directed at the Habs Saku Koivu which drew the attention of Sheldon Souray, who took exception to the Montreal captain being attached to the hit list.
For his troubles, Souray was given a seven minute penalty and banished from the game, from that point on this was not destined to be public skating night at the Mellon. The Pens got off to a good start and seemed to be preparing to put the Habs away for the night with a number of power play opportunities.
But the Habs refused to roll up the carpet and take the night off, the two teams battled in the corners and at the blue lines. Some of the hardest hits delivered in the last year were being handed out on Thursday. Crosby not to be intimidated played through the occasional rough stuff and shone as he has on many a night this season so far, picking up three assists on the Pens first three goals of the night.
Sergei Gonchar was the power play specialist for the Pens with two goals with the man advantage, the fast paced and physical game saw the Habs Radek Bonk raise his game to heights not seen in a while, as he single handedly lifted his team back into the thick of things after consecutive short handed situations. Lifting their spirits with timely goals and some hard nosed play in both ends.
Montreal and Pittsburgh battled back and forth; the Habs rushing back to tie the game at 4 a piece as the end of the third period was beckoning. From there the overtime delivered no result and the teams went to a shoot out, which eventually saw the Pens grab the victory, their fifth in a row.
Considering some of the plodding efforts put forward on the television the last week or so, the Habs/Pens match was one that made you sit up and take notice. There was a bit of bad blood brewing by the end of the shoot out, which should make the return match on Sunday afternoon that much more anticipated.
While the speed and scoring may have been indicative of the New NHL, the more physical attention was reminiscent of the old days, a nice combination that resulted in an enjoyable sixty plus minutes of shinny.