The Pittsburgh Penguins might feel more at home than the typical visitors to the Bell Centre for a playoff game against the Canadiens.
Owned by Montreal-born hockey legend Mario Lemieux, the Pittsburgh Penguins can expect a small share of local support when they take the ice for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal on Tuesday night (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
Pittsburgh's lineup boasts four Quebecers, including goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, defenceman Kris Letang, and forwards Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis. And Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S., honed his French while playing junior hockey in Rimouski.
"We felt like all of Quebec was behind the Penguins last year," said Talbot, who brought the Stanley Cup home last summer after scoring both goals in Pittsburgh's Cup-clinching 2-1 win in the seventh game of the final in Detroit.
"It will be crazy being in Montreal," he said. "It will be crazy. Fun. Exciting. But we just need to control our emotions because it's still an important hockey game."
Fleury, who hails from nearby Sorel on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, made a huge save on Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom to end that game. Hoisting the Stanley Cup was a dream born with Fleury's memories of the Canadiens' last championship in the spring of 1993.
"It was very special to see them win the Cup that year, so I think that it will be fun to be there and play a game there and it will be exciting," Fleury said Monday before the team flew to Montreal.
'Unbelievable atmosphere' awaits
While Crosby and the Penguins' young Quebecers will be making their Montreal playoff debuts, Pittsburgh right-winger Bill Guerin knows first-hand the environment awaiting his team.
"It's an unbelievable experience, an unbelievable atmosphere," said Guerin, who faced the Canadiens with Boston in the first round in 2002. "It's something that I think we're all going to enjoy. As long as we keep our emotions in check, we'll be fine."
Despite the Penguins' popularity in the province, the Canadiens will be welcomed as conquering heroes by yet another sold-out crowd on Tuesday night.
Montreal evened the second-round series at 1-1 on Sunday. Michael Cammalleri scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 38 saves in a 3-1 win in Pittsburgh in Game 2.
Cammalleri has scored eight goals in nine playoff games, including seven in his last six.
"We know his number and we know what he has done for his team thus far in the playoffs," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He is getting opportunities and is being dangerous with those opportunities. We have to be extremely cautious when he is on the ice."
A 39-goal scorer with Calgary in 2008-09, Cammalleri signed a five-year, $30-million US contract with Montreal on July 1.
The five-foot-nine left-winger was leading the Canadiens with 26 goals when he was sidelined by a knee injury on Jan. 30. He returned for Montreal's final nine games of the regular season, though he was held to two assists down the stretch.
"You know, coming back from the injury obviously I would have liked to play a little better, but things happen and what do you do?" Cammalleri said. "You just work harder at it and find a way to try and get better, and the playoffs have been exciting."
Crosby shows frustration
The Canadiens' win Sunday was similar to their first-round victories in their upset of Washington. Halak rebounded from being pulled from Friday's 6-3 loss and frustrated the Penguins with save after save, protecting Montreal's one-goal lead until Cammalleri scored again late in the third.
Giving all credit to Halak, Cammalleri noted the Canadiens have grown adept at being outshot.
"We've kind of found a way to stay calm in those situations and realize that we're going to have to defend and we're playing against good players on good teams who are going to make good plays," Cammalleri said. "So you're not going to have to panic when they do that. They're going to make good plays and they're going to get their scoring chances."
Still, the Canadiens would prefer not to rely so much on Halak against the potent Penguins.
"I think we have to try to play a little bit more in their end, you know, force them to play down there and tire them out a little bit more," Gorges said.
After raising his playoff leading points total to 16 with a pair of assists in Friday's series-opening 6-3 win, Crosby was held without a point in Game 2.
"I think that a lot of what happens with Sid is that he is so emotional and he invests so much of himself into the game that sometimes he lets it show," Guerin said. "I don't see a problem in that. I think a lot of times people take it the wrong way, but inside our dressing room, we don't. We know what it's all about. We know why he's doing that. It's only for good reasons."