"The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief." - Othello, Act I, Scene III.
Whenever I'm stuck for words to explain something incomprehensible, I can always depend on the Bard to provide just the right phrase. Last night, the Canadiens were the victims of attempted robbery, but today, they're the ones smiling. Whether that actually takes anything from Eric Furlatt or Paul Devorski is doubtful, but it certainly steals something from the Penguins.
The reffing, I think we can all agree, was atrocious last night. Neither of the Penguins' goals should have happened. On the first one, PK Subban had his legs wiped out from under him, giving the Pens a two-on-one break. On the second, the Second Coming blatantly tripped Roman Hamrlik, with no call. The Pens scored the go-ahead goal seconds later. Those were the two that cost. There were many, many other calls that did not get called, most in favour of the Penguins. Andrei Kostitsyn getting clotheslined at the blueline...no call. Travis Moen chasing a breakway chance on the forecheck getting held up in pursuit of the puck...no call. Two broken Canadiens sticks off Penguins slashes in the third...no call. Tripping Gill on the PK...no call. I don't usually blame the refs, but last night they became one more obstacle Team Adversity was forced to overcome.
To be fair, there was one significant non-call in the Habs favour. On Malkin's breakaway in the third, Gorges could have gone for tripping because he didn't touch the puck before Malkin went down. It might have even been a penalty shot. That would have cost the Habs their slender, hard-earned lead. Still, one break doesn't make up for the countless roadblocks the refs handed out, or didn't hand out, througout the game.
Hal Gill said he "didn't want to be the guy who yells at the refs," although even he was tempted to let loose on them at least once on the ice. He might have had more to say if the Habs hadn't pulled off that vital win. As it is, he's smiling today, and so are the rest of the Canadiens. Despite the refs and Crosby's petulant spoiled attempts to gain the officiating advantage, the Habs found a new set of heroes.
Max Lapierre was inspired all night. I was so glad to see him rewarded with a goal because he provided the emotional spark the team needed to rouse itself from its two-period torpor. He and Tom Pyatt, Dominic Moore and Mathieu Darche dug and clawed and fought for every inch of ice. They did what they weren't able to do in Game Three: take up the slack for the scoring lines that were being squashed by the Pens' third and fourth liners.
Jaro Halak was stellar again. At this point, we're in danger of taking him for granted because he's always there when he's needed most. He's outgoaling Fleury, who looked very, very beatable last night. Brian Gionta was fierce and opportunistic. Andrei Kostitsyn weathered a nasty blow to the face and kept on skating, which is something we don't see from him very often. Maybe he's secretly glad his whiny little brother is banished. Roman Hamrlik has taken his weary carcass and injected it with the serum of youth once again in Andrei Markov's absence. He'll be gone next year if there's a trade to be made for his salary, but he's been immeasurably better in the last two games than he'd been earlier in the playoffs. He's been great about covering for PK Subban too.
Subban obviously took the first Pens' goal hard. Even though he was laid out through no fault of his own and couldn't get back, he seemed to panic a bit afterwards. I hoped the coaches wouldn't punish him...then I realized, they can't. The shorthanded situation on D may be the best thing for both Subban and O'Byrne who will have to get ice time no matter what they do out there. Martin is obliged to play them and can't employ his "make a mistake and you're benched" motivational strategy. Subban was able to shake it off and came back with a strong third, which should give Martin a hint about how to handle him next year when he makes his inevitable rookie errors.
I'm hearing a lot of people dumping on Tomas Plekanec for his lack of offence in this series. One thing I think a lot of critics haven't noticed is that he's being used in tandem with either Gorges or Gill to shut down Sidney Crosby. He's doing a great job defensively, as is evidenced by Crosby's lack of production. The thing is, the Habs can survive if Pleks doesn't score. I'm not sure if the Pens can win if Crosby's off the scoresheet. I'll take that trade. In the meantime, Pleks' great steal off Crosby for the assist on Cammalleri's insurance goal in Game Two is the kind of thing we're more likely to see from him in the role he's currently playing.
If this team has a leadership by committee mentality, it's working. Whatever group of guys stood up and encouraged their mates in the second intermission last night deserve kudos. The team was in a funk, struggling under a stifling Pens checking system. It looked sadly like Game Three, in which the Habs just couldn't get anything going. Team Adversity went into the intermission, reached deep for another gear and came out firing in the third. At this point, it's almost hard to believe everything the Habs have overcome to get this far. Key injuries, tough opposition, and of course, the refs.
I guess, in the end, Hal Gill's right not to cast blame though. As the Duke of Venice put it: "To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on."