The Pittsburgh Penguins snapped their three game winning streak, getting a big win in Montreal Wednesday night, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 at the Bell Center, improving to 27-14-4 on the season.
It was an important win for the Penguins who collected their first win against Montreal in five games. A victory against a team that has given the Penguins a bad taste in their mouth and is becoming a rival as both teams, are starting to dislike each other.
For the Penguins, it was also their first win this season without star center Sidney Crosby, who remains out indefinitely due to a concussion.
Prior to tonight’s game, Pittsburgh had scored just three goals in three games without Sidney Crosby, but erupted tonight with a five goal performance, including four power play goals.
Defenseman Alex Goligoski led the power play outburst, scoring two power play goals and one assist as Pittsburgh’s 20th ranked power play went 4-for-6 in the win.
Jordan Staal and Kris Letang also had three point nights, as Staal had a goal and two assists earning the games No. 1 star, while Letang collected three assists in the win. Letang has reached the 40 point (7G-33A) mark with his big night.
A lot of players stepped up in a different areas and special teams helped Pittsburgh secure their 13th road win and 29th road point this season but the key player tonight for me was Jordan Staal.
Many have been looking for Evgeni Malkin to step up and have an impact with Crosby out, but it was Staal tonight who broke out offensively in his 6th game this season.
Staal played a strong two way game and helped jumpstart the Penguins in the second period, winning a key offensive zone faceoff that led to Tyler Kennedy’s goal.
The Penguins trailed 2-1 behind defensive miscues in the first and second periods as Zbynek Michalek took a bad angle behind the net on Tomas Plekanec’s (13) first period goal and an Arron Asham turnover on the right boards led to David Desharnais goal just 2:15 into the second period to give the Canadiens a 2-1 lead.
The Penguins though quickly responded behind Staal’s presence…. Just past the four minute mark in the period, Staal won a clean draw in the left offensive circle, winning the puck back to Kris Letang who quickly moved the puck over to Tyler Kennedy (7) who buried a wrist shot past Carey Price for his 7th goal of the season, tying the game at 2-2.
In a back and fourth period, Staal (1) scored a game changing goal, netting his first of the season with 10.9 seconds left in the second, an unassisted effort as Pittsburgh took advantage of a too-many-men call against Montreal.
The goal was a killer for the Canadiens and Pittsburgh took a commanding 4-2 lead just 2:33 into the third period, as Alex Goligoski (9) scored his 2nd goal of the game with assists going to Staal and Letang.
Chris Kunitz later added his 14th goal of the season, pushing the Penguins lead to 5-2 mid-way through the third period and notching the Penguins 4th power play goal of the game at 11:39 of the period.
While Staal struggled in the faceoff circle (43.8%), he was a force in all phases of the game leading the Penguins with 6 hits and also logged 20:08 of ice time.
Tonight was a big step for Staal, whose still finding his way back into form and the Penguins needed one of their big guns to step up in a tough battle on the road…. They got it from Staal tonight.
As for Evgeni Malkin, he was pointless and led the Penguins with 7 shots on goal. He had two point blank opportunities but didn’t get much velocity on his shot on both occassions against a sliding Carey Price.
Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury made 20 saves to record his 19th victory of the season.
Defenseman Paul Martin took all of the reps with the 1st power play unit during the morning skate and according to Dan Bylsma on the FSN telecast before the game, the intention was for Martin to run the first unit in place of Goliogski but things played out with Goliogoski getting back on the first unit and he ended up with two power play goals.
Funny how things play out sometimes.
Pittsburgh scratched Sidney Crosby, Eric Godard and Ben Lovejoy….Penguins RW Arron Asham returned after sitting out Monday’s loss in Boston because of illness…. Penguins Forward Dustin Jeffrey was reassigned to Wilkes Barre/Scranton this afternoon…. Canadiens LW Michael Cammalleri missed his second game in a row because of the flu. … D Alexandre Picard was left out of Montreal’s lineup