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Montreal Canadiens Roman Hamrlik celebrates his team's goal on Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury during the third period in Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference semi-final hockey series in Montreal, May 6, 2010.


It can fairly be said that a game where two of the first three shots on goal worm their way into the net is a sloppy affair.

But in the lexicon of the scrappy, no-surrender Montreal Canadiens, sloppy is good.

If the Habs have made a habit this NHL postseason of winning against opponents who by rights should steamroll them, it's because of their resilience and ability to turn around lost causes.

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"They hung around," Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who hasn't scored in his last eight games in Montreal, said Thursday, a few moments after his team gave up a 2-1 lead and lost Game 4 of its Eastern Conference semi-final series to the Canadiens 3-2.

The Habs looked well-beaten after two periods, down 2-1 and having only nine shots to show for a night's work in the offensive zone.

"Let's call it what it is, we weren't any good," said Montreal winger Michael Cammalleri, adding there was some pointed discussion in the Habs locker room after the second period. "We just looked at each other and looked in the mirror and said, it's a one-goal game, we can better in the third."

And early in the final frame, Maxim Lapierre and Brian Gionta - via Letang's leg - scored in a span of 1 minute 33 seconds to put the home team ahead.

"It's their game," Pittsburgh defenceman Kristopher Letang said. "We didn't get very many dangerous shots in the third, and they played according to their game plan."

Letang had a particularly miserable night, fanning on an open net for what would have been a 3-1 Penguins lead, and having the Montreal game-winner bounce into his own net off his shin pad.

"It's going to happen, forget about it, move on," the visibly frustrated Montreal native said.

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Tom Pyatt, with his first career playoff goal, opened the scoring early in the first.

Maxime Talbot and Chris Kunitz replied for Pittsburgh.

Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who made 33 saves, thwarted Crosby with a sliding save on a third-period power play and turned away Evgeni Malkin on a breakaway with more than three minutes to play.

The paying public stumps up its hard-earned money for hockey tickets in hopes of seeing the players do their thing, not the men wearing the zebra stripes.

So Canadiens fans were naturally disgruntled when referees Paul Devorski and Eric Furlatt took centre stage in the first period at the Bell Centre.

Not for what they did, so much as what they didn't do.

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The crowd jeered no-calls on Crosby - after he appeared to trip Habs defenceman Roman Hamrlik during a power play (Crosby would feed Kunitz in the slot seconds later) - and a Mark Eaton clothesline on Montreal forward Andrei Kostitsyn as he barrelled across the blueline.

So loud and angry was the assembled crowd at the refs' work that for long stretches it forgot to boo favourite target Crosby or taunt Pens goaltender Marc-André Fleury with chants of "Fleeeuuuurrrry."

"Maybe we were worried too much about the calls we thought we should have gotten [in the first two periods]" said Montreal winger Mathieu Darche, who set up Lapierre's goal and earned a third-period tripping penalty that prompted a deluge of garbage to be thrown on the ice.

Pittsburgh also had reason to be aggrieved, with Kunitz hit late by Hamrlik on Gionta's goal - which caromed off Letang - and a Kostitsyn hit from behind on Letang.

In a playoffs during which the officiating has caused fans to bristle from Detroit to Vancouver (and through Washington), fans on both sides will have ample water cooler fodder.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More

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