Canadiens advance in Game 4 as Penguins end season with a whimper

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The 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers continue to teach us to expect the unexpected. Even so, it was surprising to see the Penguins end their season with such a flat effort, as the Canadiens scored a late 1-0 goal to win Game 4, and take the series 3-1.

Technically, this marks the first time the Penguins “missed” the playoffs since 2006. While that flies in the face of a pretty solid regular season, it feels fitting for how it all ended.

(With a whimper, that is.)

Canadiens eliminate Penguins in anticlimactic Game 4

Yes, it’s fair to say that there were some close calls. In particular, Sidney Crosby fired a few thisclose shots at Carey Price. And, while it ended up being “too little, too late,” Tristan Jarry gave the Penguins a chance in Game 4 with some strong saves.

Maybe Jarry would want that Artturi Lehkonen goal back, yet for a team like the Penguins, it’s tough to accept leaving things up to chance in a one-goal game.

But the Penguins simply didn’t get much going against the Canadiens in Game 4.

Credit the likes of Shea Weber and Jeff Petry for making life difficult for Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, not to mention a vaunted supporting cast of other impressive scorers. Still, it felt like the Penguins lacked any energy really since the Canadiens surprisingly tied Game 3.

Ultimately, the Penguins must grapple with some haunting questions. Should the Penguins have turned to Jarry sooner, or maybe even to start the series? Could Mike Sullivan have found more ways to get Crosby and Malkin more ice time, including skating together when there wasn’t much happening?

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Much has been made about Montreal being a strong five-on-five team, and that shined through this series. Still, to lose to the Canadiens even though Montreal failed to score a single power play is stunning. While the Canadiens were playing with house money, the Penguins are a team brimming with aging veterans, and it’s fair to wonder how many shots they’ll get at big runs. Even if they have more in them, this is a gut punch that will burst many bubbles.

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.