PITTSBURGH – Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has a stable of the finest snipers in the National Hockey League. Goal scorers galore on whom other teams would mortgage their futures.
And that can be a problem.
“We’re a team right now that just wants to score instead of just playing the game the right way which means playing both sides of the puck,” Sullivan said. “It’s in the details of making calculated decisions and good line changes and we’re not even close to what we need to be.”
An improved Montreal squad exposed seemingly every mistake the Penguins made as Paul Byron scored a pair of goals — including the eventual game-winner midway through the first period — and chipped in an assist on Joel Armia’s shorthanded tally late in the second frame as the Canadiens (1-0-1) ended a five-game skid against the Penguins and a four-game drought at PPG Paints Arena with a 5-1 victory.
Though the Penguins (1-1-0) are at .500 through two games, they have allowed 11 goals thus far. Washington put six on the Penguins in the opener on Thursday despite the fact the Capitals dropped a 7-6 decision in overtime.
“You have to take the score out of it,” Penguins goaltender Matt Murray said. “I felt better than I did the last game. I honestly felt pretty good and they had some chances and made some good plays and I’ve just got to come up with a couple of saves.”
About the only bright spot for the Penguins came at the 17:10 mark of the second period when Riley Sheahan ended the shutout bid by Montreal netminder Carey Price with a backhanded rebound for his first goal of the season. On the play, defenseman Kris Letang made team history when he passed Hall-of-Famer Paul Coffey with a second-period assist to become the highest-scoring blueliner for the franchise.
Letang reached the 441-point milestone in his 684th career game. Coffey, who spent several years in Edmonton with their offensive juggernaut in the early 1980s, amassed his 440 points in just 331 games with the organization.
“You grow up and you dream of playing in the NHL and to have my name next to Paul Coffey’s is pretty exciting,” Letang said. “But he did it in like 300 games.”
Though Sullivan saw his team pushing the offensive attack at every turn, the team didn’t benefit from its own risk-taking. The Penguins were outshot 29-22, but most of their attempts came luring a spurt late in the second period and they were held to only three in the final frame.
Only two skaters, forward Jake Guentzel and defenseman Brian Dumoulin, finished with an even plus-minus as the other 16 were minus-1 or minus-2.
Olli Maatta and Jack Johnson were on the backside for both of the Canadiens two first-period goals that helped Montreal open up a 4-0 lead. On the first, Johnson turned the puck over at the Penguins blue line, which led to a quick two-on-one the other way. Tomas Tatar then set up Brendan Gallagher for an easy wrist shot that beat Matt Murray at 11:08.
Byron made it look a little easier as he split Matta and Johnson for a mini-breakaway from 45 feet in and beat Murray 1-on-1 for the Canadiens second goal in 4:48.
After beating Murray again at 3:43 of the second period, Byron set up Armia on the shorthanded goal that put the Habs up 4-0 at 14:05 and put the game out of reach. Sheahan scored late in the second period, but Montreal answered at 10:08 of the third when Charles Hudon scored on a left-to-right wraparound to beat Murray and give the Canadiens a 5-1 edge.