The Pittsburgh Penguins have had four days off since Sidney Crosby(notes) sparked a comeback win with his latest hat trick, so it might be reasonable to expect a little rust after their longest layoff of the season.
They’ve rarely looked lethargic against the Montreal Canadiens.
Pittsburgh tries for its sixth straight win in the series and a four-game season sweep Saturday afternoon at Bell Centre.
Long stretches of rest have been rare with the NHL schedule compressed leading up to the Olympic break, but the Penguins (35-21-1) haven’t played since beating Buffalo 5-4 on Monday behind Crosby’s NHL-leading third hat trick.
“We have had a lot of games in not a lot of days,” forward Tyler Kennedy(notes) told the Penguins’ official Web site. “You kind of get used to it and your body gets used to it. You have to get as much rest as you can between games and work hard when you are out there.”
Pittsburgh beat Detroit 2-1 in a shootout Sunday before coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Sabres, and another back-to-back is on tap this weekend. The Penguins visit NHL-best Washington on Sunday afternoon in a game scheduled to start less than 20 hours after the expected conclusion of their game in Montreal.
The Canadiens host Boston later Sunday afternoon.
Montreal (27-25-6) can’t be too thrilled with a visit from Pittsburgh, particularly Crosby. Two goals away from tying his career high of 39 after his performance against the Sabres, Crosby already has posted a hat trick against Montreal in a 6-1 home victory Oct. 28.
He had a goal and an assist in the Penguins’ 3-1 win over the Canadiens on Nov. 25, and though he was held off the scoresheet at Bell Centre on Dec. 10, Pascal Dupuis’(notes) third-period goal lifted Pittsburgh to a 3-2 victory. It was the Penguins’ fifth straight win in the series overall and fourth in five games at Montreal.
Halak, though, has been largely responsible for Montreal’s improved play of late. He’s started six of the team’s last seven games, going 4-1-1 with a 1.63 GAA.
The Canadiens can win a third straight at home Saturday for the first time since a four-game run to close October, and Halak also has them in position for a third straight win overall. He made 45 saves in a 3-2 victory over red-hot Vancouver on Tuesday, then made 45 more before stopping all three Boston skaters in the shootout of a 3-2 road win Thursday.
Halak is 7-0 in games he’s faced 40 shots or more.
“As long as we win, it doesn’t matter how many shots they have and we have,” Halak said. “It would be nice to get more shots on net, but we have to find our game.”
The Penguins are 7-1-0 when registering 40 or more shots, and had 41 against Price in their last visit to Montreal.
The Canadiens possess one of the game’s top power plays (25.4 percent) and are 6 of 16 (37.5 percent) over their last four games, but that unit is missing Michael Cammalleri(notes) and Andrei Kostitsyn(notes) due to knee injuries.
Montreal is 17-24-4 when it fails to score at least twice on the power play.