PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Even in their new arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins still have no answer for Mike Cammalleri.
Cammalleri and Scott Gomez scored in a 24-second span over the final 2:12 and the Montreal Canadiens came back for a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night, keeping the Penguins winless through two games at brand new Consol Energy Center.
“Cammalleri is a real quality player and he has the ability to score key goals,” Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. “He has a nose for the net.”
The Penguins know that all too well.
The final game at Mellon Arena was Montreal 5-2 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Cammalleri was Montreal’s biggest weapon in that series, scoring seven goals—including the winner in Game 7.
On Saturday, Cammalleri’s second goal of the game came when he was second Montreal player to deflect a Josh Gorges shot from the right-wing boards, getting it past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
“We were both battling and going to the net, just trying to go to the net after point shots,” Cammalleri said. “It was a big goal, and a big two points for us.”
Gomez scored on the next shift, skating down the left wing and needling a shot through the pads of Fleury.
Afterward, Gomez evoked Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay—who threw a no-hitter three days earlier.
“I just kind of threw it on net at the end and good things happen, I guess,” Gomez said. “Kind of like Doc Halladay, I just threw the 3-2 changeup in there.”
Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu scored for the Penguins, who lost the first game at only the second home arena they have known, 3-2 Thursday to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Cammalleri also scored in the first period for the Canadiens, who were playing their first game in Pittsburgh since eliminating the Penguins from the playoffs in the second round as a No. 8 seed last season.
Counting playoffs, he has scored in five consecutive games in Pittsburgh.
His goal Saturday 15:24 into the game came when he finished a pretty feed from Tomas Plekanec. Bylsma had said after the pre-game skate Saturday that the team must do a much better job defending Cammalleri.
“I plan on playing a lot of games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, so I guess I’ll take that as a big form of flattery, to be honest with you,” Cammalleri said.
Skating with speed, Plekanec looked as if he was going to circle behind net but instead slipped a pass right out to Cammalleri in the slot. The puck was in the net before Fleury even had turned back around from facing Plekanec.
“We did some good things, there were some positives about the game, but one or two mistakes wind up in the back of your net,” Bylsma said. “They have to be corrected and they have to get out of your game if you’re going to be a good team and get wins.”
Montreal traded the star of last season’s playoff run, goalie Jaroslav Halak, in order to make room for Carey Price, a former first-round pick. Price made 36 saves.
“Carey was really good, but you know what? We expect him to be that way,” Cammalleri said. “I don’t think that was anything out of the ordinary for him—that’s Carey Price. I loved his body language, he made some game-winning saves throughout the game, so well done by him.”
Malkin made it 1-1 when he scored 40 seconds into the second during a 4-on-3 power play, slapping a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby past Price.
The former league scoring champions Malkin and Crosby were held scoreless on opening night.
Letestu scored with 11:18 to play, taking a pass from Matt Cooke while they were skating fast down the left wing, accepting the puck while in the faceoff circle and shovelling a shot that beat Price through the five-hole.
“We let it slip away, that’s basically what happened,” Crosby said. “We didn’t put the game away. We had a lead and had some real good chances. We didn’t get the two-goal lead there, and it ended up hurting us.”
Notes: Almost 43 years to the day (Oct. 11, 1967), the two teams played the first game at the then-Civic Arena, which still stands across the street from Consol Energy Center. Montreal won that one, too, 2-1. … Canadiens D P.K. Subban briefly left the game late in the first period after taking a high stick to the face from Pittsburgh C Mike Comrie. …. Crosby limped off the ice after taking a clearing attempt from Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik off his right knee while killing a penalty during the second period but did not miss a shift. … Crosby has never been shut out during the first two games of any of his first six NHL seasons.