It took just 21 seconds for the Pittsburgh Penguins to puncture the Montreal Canadiens and the Penguins scored twice more in the first period for an early three-goal lead. The Penguins also did enough to squash the Montreal Canadiens in the final period. Sidney Crosby had four points with one goal and Jake Guentzel had four points with two goals as the Penguins beat Montreal 5-1 at the Bell Center, Saturday night.
Matt Murray was very visible as he stopped 36 of 37 shots. Murray made back to back starts and earned three of four possible points.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan toyed with his lines before the tilt against one of the teams which lead the Penguins for a playoff position. Sullivan put Jared McCann on Crosby’s left wing and flipped usual left-sider Guentzel to the right wing. The line converted on the first shift of the game.
“We got a great start and looked like we had our legs especially early. It was important,” Crosby said. “We got a lot of life and that was a big key in the game.”
McCann who idolized Crosby growing up, held his position at the offensive blue line. He intercepted the Montreal breakout pass and quickly touched it forward for Crosby and Guentzel to work a slick give-and-go. Crosby (29) deflected Guentzel’s pass past Montreal goalie Carey Price.
Price is one of the best goalies in hockey but the Penguins didn’t waste time going back at him.
“I thought it was a great team effort. I thought Matt Murray was terrific in goal and I thought Sid had a monster night,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “His line was very good.”
Just a few minutes later, the Penguins scored a power-play goal. Evgeni Malkin (21) wound up from the top of the circle but his shot was partially deflected at the release point. The slap shot turned into an off-speed shot which eluded Price.
And a few minutes after the Penguins earned a two-goal lead, they added to it. In the offensive zone, Crosby won a faceoff and pulled it back to Guentzel. A quick snap later, Guentzel (30) beat Price and the Penguins had plenty of breathing room.
Guentzel struck again early in the second period, with a similar storyline to the Penguins first goal by Crosby. McCann won a puck battle at center ice and sprung Guentzel into the offensive zone. Another give-and-go with Crosby and Guentzel (31) had another goal.
“That goal in the second period was really big. Great shot. He got a breakaway after that,” Crosby said. “He was just all over the puck tonight creating plays.”
Montreal controlled the majority of the second period, but Penguins goalie Matt Murray was as good as he had to be. He didn’t always make it look easy but he kept the pucks out.
Brendan Gallagher finally cracked Murray in the middle of the second period. The Penguins began to chase the puck and Gallagher (29) used the space in the slot to sneak a shot through Murray. Montreal gained momentum but wasn’t able to score again in the second period.
Surprisingly, the Penguins outshot the Canadiens in the second period, though Montreal controlled territory and attempted 15 shots in the period. The Penguins patchwork defense held up. AHL-callup Zach Trotman was quiet and had four blocked shots.
McCann (14) added the empty net goal in the final minutes.
Price stopped only 20 of 24 shots.
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost to Edmonton, so the Penguins currently have sole control of the second-wild card spot. They’re tied with Montreal at 77 points and 33 ROWs for the first wild-card, but the Penguins have one game in hand.