MONTREAL — Pittsburgh Penguins (13-12-3) head coach Mike Sullivan left the bench with disgust at the end of the first period. Defenseman Erik Karlsson delivered a couple of gift-wrapped chances with ghastly turnovers, the second of which allowed Montreal Canadiens defenseman David Savard to light the lamp with an uncontested wrister from the left circle.
However, the Penguins have Sidney Crosby, who scored three points, including two goals, and carried the Penguins to a 4-3 shootout win over the Canadiens at Centre Bell.
“He certainly played an inspiring game for us tonight,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “He was doing his very best to drag us into a fight.”
The Penguins killed an Evgeni Malkin tripping penalty in overtime to send the game to the shootout, where Crosby and Kris Letang scored in the first three rounds, but Montreal also scored two as the shootout advanced to 12 rounds. Penguins grinder Jansen Harkins scored in the 12th round, and the Penguins have won two in a row.
However, the Penguins’ offensive output was almost exclusively Crosby. He was the star of the Penguins’ show.
The game did not start well, and the first 20 minutes were a worsening slide of mediocre hockey.
Turnovers. Lost puck battles. Missed assignments. The Penguins rightfully trailed 3-1 after the first period.
Moving their feet. Power play goals. Crosby. The Penguins rightfully tied the game 3-3 in the second period.
“We didn’t start the way we wanted to start, but we kept fighting,” Sullivan said. “We climbed back in the game and and I thought the power play once again was again a big difference for us.”
The Penguins power play was two-for-three, and is now four-for-eight in the last two games after the horrid 0-for-37 streak.
“It’s certainly better than it was, which was not hard to accomplish,” said Karlsson. “I think we kind of had a good reset a while ago and had a couple of practice days where we could just feel the puck. And once we got that first one, it kind of calmed things down.”
After 50 minutes, the game was still tied, though the Penguins’ offensive zone possessions more often ended with passes, and Montreal had all six scoring chances. On the second of back-to-back games, the Penguins never found their legs in the third period.
The first period was the antithesis of the needed follow-up to the Penguins’ win over the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday. The win over Arizona wasn’t an overly taxing or physical game, but the Penguins’ first period looked like they were trying to run the last six miles of a marathon.
Savard (1) scored the first Montreal goal about six minutes into the game.
In the middle of the first, Monreal’s third-pairing defenseman Jayden Struble (2) was uncovered by the Penguins forwards near the net and had an easy finish. Jeff Carter was the likely culprit, though Jansen Harkins had a good view of the crashing d-man, too.
Later in the first period, Sean Monahan collected the gifts beneath the tree when Nick Suzuki’s long wrist shot dribbled behind Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic but not quite over the goal line. Monahan was not challenged as he raced to the net to tap the puck across the line.
The Penguins managed to cut the Montreal lead to 2-1 in the middle of the period. Less than two minutes after Struble scored the second Montreal goal, Crosby sprung into action. He surprised defenseman Kaiden Guhle who attempted to make a routine outlet pass. Crosby intercepted it and set in motion a couple of shots by Drew O’Connor at the Montreal net. A few moments later, Crosby (16) whipped the rebound to the top-shelf over Sam Montembeault.
Crosby drove the next two goals against the team he grew up watching and also drafted his father.
Crosby and Guentzel worked a give-and-go at the top of the zone on a power play. Guentzel (13) blasted a one-timer from the top of the slot five minutes into the second.
In the middle of the second period, Crosby scored again. His long wrist shot weaved through traffic past Montembeault.
Penguins goalie Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 30 of 33 in regulation. He stopped all nine in overtime. He settled down after the soft goal and made a few difficult saves. Montembeault stopped 26 of 29 in regulation.
Crosby’s three points tied him with former teammate Mark Recchi for 13th on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1533 points.