NHL Hockey

Penguins' plan is to make sure Canadiens keep careening

When the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, it will be 10 days since they last met. It's fair to say not a whole lot has changed for either team.

Particularly the direction each was heading in that night.

The teams played Nov. 18 in Montreal. Pittsburgh won 6-0 to kick off what has turned into a five-game winning streak with a 1-0 road win Friday against the New York Islanders.

The Canadiens lost their fourth straight that night as part of a 1-5-1 stretch through Friday's 4-1 loss at Buffalo.

Pittsburgh has outscored its opponents 16-2 during its winning streak, with goaltender Tristan Jarry starting each of those games and turning in three shutouts in the five wins, stopping 141 of 143 shots.

According to longtime team historian Bob Grove, the two goals are the fewest the Penguins have ever allowed over any five-game stretch.

Still, it would seem likely that the Penguins will give backup goaltender Casey DeSmith just his fourth start Saturday against Montreal considering the back-to-back games.

DeSmith has not been stellar in his three starts, with a 4.72 goals-against average and .856 save percentage in going 0-2-1.

It's not just the goaltending that has sparked Pittsburgh, which has also been displaying a solid two-way game.

"We've got a lot of energy and a lot of confidence in the way we're playing," said winger Kasperi Kapanen, who scored the game's only goal Friday. "When we stick to our structure, this is what it looks like. It doesn't matter what team (we're playing), I feel like we're a very good team."

Penguins top-line right winger Bryan Rust's status for Saturday is unclear. He left the pregame warmup early before the game against the Islanders because of a lower-body injury and was a late scratch.

Evan Rodrigues filled in on the top line. "Just another guy that steps up when his number's called," top-line left winger Jake Guentzel said.

Meanwhile, things keep getting more and more tense with the Canadiens, who have the third-worst winning percentage in the NHL at .273 and are 1-9-1 on the road.

Coach Dominique Ducharme and, especially, general manager Marc Bergevin are taking a lot of heat, and the players feel the pressure, too.

"It starts with the older guys. Just go out there and do what you do. We've got to take control here," said Josh Anderson, who notched Montreal's only goal Friday. "It's not fun right now, I'll tell you that. ... I just think we have to be better."

Anderson noted that the Canadiens have had "multiple meetings" trying to seek answers.

They find themselves having few options beyond simply moving forward -- and doing it quickly with back-to-back games.

"You don't really have a choice to lose your confidence," Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot said. "We've got a game (Saturday) night, so you have to be able to go out there with confidence, play your game. You can't sit around and pout. Just move on to the next one.

"There's no lack of confidence in the group. It's just a matter of us all putting it together and getting it done."

--Field Level Media

Updated November 27, 2021

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