Mike Sullivan and the Penguins tried just about everything Saturday night.
Their punchless power play was a cause for concern entering the playoffs after that unit struggled during their postseason camp, and the Penguins did not get much of anything going on three power plays in Tuesday's tune-up against the Flyers.
After that exhibition loss, the coach conceded that they had "a ways to go to get it firing on all cylinders."
The Penguins had plenty of opportunities to do that in Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss in Game 1 of their qualifying-round series against the Montreal Canadiens. But the Penguins went 1 for 7 on the power play and couldn't convert on a long 5-on-3 at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, the NHL's Eastern Conference playoff hub.
After another squandered opportunity in OT, Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry beat Matt Murray on his blocker side to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The Penguins began the night with Jason Zucker on their top unit. They alternated point men. They had players switch spots. They asked Evgeni Malkin to at times move to the left circle, eliminating the threat of his wicked one-timers. On a failed 5-on-3, they gave Bryan Rust a shot. In overtime, Sullivan started with his second unit.
Their lone power-play goal came on a busted play with the second unit on the ice. Jared McCann tested the durability of Patric Hornqvist's most treasured piece of equipment with a long-distance wrist shot. The puck caromed off Hornqvist's cup to Rust, who shoveled a backhander between the pads of Carey Price.
Maybe more Hornqvist near the paint would have helped the Penguins do more with the seven power plays. But he mysteriously remained on the second unit.
Prior to the NHL's pandemic pause March 12, the Penguins were 5 for 42 on the power play while closing out the shortened regular season on a 3-8-0 skid.
The Penguins dominated the first period, but Price was on his game. Jack Johnson had a nightmare sequence that ended with him checking an opponent and the puck into his net, and the Canadiens took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
About seven minutes into the second period, Nick Suzuki skated down the left wing on a 2-on-1 and flicked a wrister over the glove of Murray to make it 2-0.
The Penguins, however, didn't panic. They stuck to their game, and three minutes later their captain got them back in it with a remarkable individual effort below the goal line. As a Penguins shot skittered wide of the right post, Sidney Crosby deftly lifted the stick of Xavier Ouellet then a split second later banked a shot in off Price.
Moments later, Rust buried a rebound on the power play to tie the game at 2-2. Earlier in that power play, Murray had to make a pad save on a 2-on-1, and Kris Letang broke up another odd-man break with a well-timed snow angel.
The Penguins were gifted a golden opportunity to take the lead in the first minute of the third period. The Canadiens took penalties 28 seconds apart to give them a 5-on-3 power play. The Penguins controlled the puck in the zone long enough for Malkin to tee up a few one-timers, but none made it through Price.
Before the end of regulation, they squandered another power play and a penalty shot with 3:03 left. Price kept the Canadiens alive by stopping Conor Sheary on a breakaway then held his ground on the penalty shot as Sheary shot wide.
Murray also faced one of those. Jonathan Drouin flubbed his try in OT, not even attempting a shot. Murray made a huge save on Drouin just before that.
Per SportsNet, it was the first time since 1923, when the Ottawa Senators played the Edmonton Eskimos, that there were two penalty shots in a playoff game.
But with 6:03 left in overtime, Petry got the winner past Murray.
Game 2 of the qualifying-round series is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday.
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