Habs lose more than game to Pens

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov lies on the ice after a hit from Pittsburgh Penguins...

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov lies on the ice after a hit from Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke during Game 1 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Friday, April 30, 2010. (DAVID DeNOMA/QMI Agency)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

PITTSBURGH - It’s probably not much of a debate.

Which is worse?

Losing your front-line defenceman or a third-line centre, even if he is the best third-line centre in the league?

The Montreal Canadiens lost defenceman Andrei Markov to what looked like a right knee injury and dropped the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinal 6-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night.

The Penguins lost centre Jordan Staal, who apparently suffered a laceration to his foot.

Given the flow of information on injuries in the NHL - never mind in the playoffs - is about as smooth as a Washington Capitals power play, we are only left to speculate on how long they’ll be out.

What we do know is that Markov left the Mellon Arena on crutches.

“It was a lower body injury. He’ll be evaluated (Saturday),” said Canadiens coach Jacques Martin, who was practically Dr. Oz compared to Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

“We’re undisclosed with the injury. It’s being evaluated further,” said Bylsma.

If the Markov injury is serious, that’s a bigger knock for the Habs, no question.

For the defending champion Penguins, if the Staal injury is long term and they beat the eight-seeded Habs, the implications could be big, but down the road.

“It’s a huge loss for us,” said Canadiens defenceman Hal Gill. “We need to step up and fill some big shoes.”

Markov, who led the Habs in ice time in the first-round upset of the Caps, retired to the Montreal dressing room after a clean check by Pittsburgh agitator Matt Cooke left him writhing on the ice and tossing a glove in the air to signal his distress. He appeared to twist his right knee on the play and did not return.

Staal went out after tangling with Montreal rookie defenceman P.K. Subban - who stepped up and put in some big minutes after Markov’s injury.

After losing Markov to a lacerated tendon in the first game of the regular season, the Habs were 14-20-3 without him. They were 25-13-7 with him in the lineup.

The injuries are the story moving forward.

The story of Game 1 was the Penguins power play which went a perfect 4-for-4 and needed less than 14 minutes to do what the Caps could not do in seven games against Montreal in the opening round: get two power-play goals. The Canadiens had killed off 32-of-33 power plays against the Caps.

Subban had opened the scoring for the Habs at 4:30 of the first on a screened shot, but then Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar, Staal, and Kris Letang scored on consecutive shots on the power play.

The Canadiens actually played the Penguins even on the night five-on-five and cut the margin to 3-2 on Mike Cammalleri’s sixth of the playoffs with five minutes to go in the second, but a bad line change by the Habs led to a goal by Craig Adams with 96 seconds left in the period.

The Pens’ fourth power-play goal by Alex Goligoski three minutes into the third pretty much decided it and chased Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak, the hero of the opening round from the net.

“There’s a reason why they hoisted the Cup last year. You make mistakes and they’re going to jump on them,” said Canadiens centre Scott Gomez. “We’ll regroup. Everyone picked it up. We were right in it, but we still made some mental mistakes that just can’t happen against those guys.”

The good news for the Habs is it appears defenceman Jaroslav Spacek is ready to return. He missed the last five games because of a virus, but had a full skate with the Canadiens’ Black Aces after Friday’s morning skate.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos