Get badly outshot? Check.
Give up gobs of scoring chances? Check.
Get superb goaltending to bail us out? Check.
Take a ton of penalties, and kill them all off? Check.
Get a power play goal with limited chances? Check.
So, how on earth did this not result in a Habs victory? Because it's not a very sound plan for winning hockey games. Montreal has gotten away with it on more than a few occasions, but you just knew it would come back to bite them at some point.
This is a luxury you have when you have otherwordly goaltending, as the Habs have been getting from Carey Price. But even he has his limits, and when a rather innocuous looking shot from Pascal Dupuis was fired towards him in the third, he finally flinched.
Jacques Martin mentioned it in his post-game press conference, good things happen when you shoot the puck, and ultimately the deserving team won the game.
What I find unfortunate is that the brutally horrendous whistle from Chris Lee that negated what would have been Scott Gomez's tying goal is likely going to mask the fact the Habs are playing with fire every night. I, like all of you, am still in shock every time I see that Lee is working an NHL game. I only have his experience with the Canadiens to go on, but it just seems like every time Lee is working a Habs game, something happens where he draws attention to himself.
This time, with Lee hogging the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, I fear people will be thinking of how the Habs were robbed of a point. Instead, what people should be thinking is how the Pens managed to outshoot the Canadiens 41-21, or how they directed 80 pucks towards the net compared to Montreal's 46, or how the Habs had only two power plays to Pittsburgh's five? If this were a one-off anomaly, then it would be unreasonable to blame the Canadiens for all those things when facing such a formidable opponent. But this was not an isolated incident. Far from it.
The Habs have been outshot by at least 10 shots a dozen times this season, but they have done the same to the opposition only three times. Thursday's game was the second time this season Montreal's given up 20 more shots than it took, but twice more the margin was 19 and another time it was 17. I realize shots on goal can sometimes be misleading, but not all the time.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but how many of you remember that five-game stretch where the Canadiens allowed no more than 23 shots in a game? That was way back in October, when it appeared that Martin's puck possession system was really starting to take hold. In the 23 games since, the Habs have kept opponents under 30 shots only five times, and they now find themselves 24th in the league with 31.6 shots against per game.
OK, those who come here regularly know that I try, whenever possible, to draw at least one positive from the game. The penalty killing is an obvious choice, as the streak has now hit 27 straight games, while the power play goal scored by Roman Hamrlik came as a result of some of the quickest puck movement I've seen from the Canadiens all year. Then there's Price, who was a shining light for the entire organization once again. He's brought his save percentage up to .914 with his last five weeks of work, but if you exclude his two worst games of the season (in Vancouver and at home to Atlanta) Price has a mark of .924 in all his other games. That is a pretty elite number.
But the most important number in my eyes remains .500, and that is where the Canadiens still find themselves today. Will they still be there when Andrei Markov gets back? Difficult to say. If we take the best case scenario and say Markov will play on Dec. 30 in Tampa, that leaves nine games between now and then, in a span of only 20 days. Seven of those are on the road, and five are against teams that are ahead of them in the standings as of right now. So, if the Habs win the four games against the teams below them (Minnesota, Islanders, Carolina and Toronto), then they will only be one game under .500 when Markov returns, and probably still well within striking distance for a playoff spot.
Anyone who says they could have seen that coming back on Oct. 1 is lying.