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Penguins Pull Out of Slide With 4-1 Win Over Montreal



This was not the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best performance of the season.

Not even close, really.

But the Penguins weren’t looking for perfection when they faced Montreal Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena.

They were focused on getting points, and picked up a couple with a 4-1 victory over the Canadiens.

After going 1-4-1 in their previous six games, including losses in the first two games of their four-game homestand, this victory truly was a two-point tourniquet for them.

And while the Penguins (25-21-8) still are far removed from the Eastern Conference playoff field, beating the Canadiens should give them an infusion of confidence and positive momentum, two commodities that have been in precious short supply in recent weeks.

The Penguins got a sluggish start for the second game in a row — Montreal generated the first five shots on goal — and Montreal opened the scoring at 9:05 after a ghastly turnover by Kris Letang.

Letang’s clearing attempt was picked off by former Penguins defenseman Mike Matheson, who threw a shot past Tristan Jarry from the slot. Another ex-Penguin, Tanner Pearson, was alone in front of Jarry and set a screen that gave Jarry no chance to see Matheson’s shot.

That was the only one of Montreal’s 31 shots that got past Jarry.

Letang and Matheson figured prominently in the next goal, too, but their roles were reversed.

Evgeni Malkin and his linemates, Matthew Phillips and Drew O’Connor, established a strong forecheck that eventually led to a giveaway by Matheson. Letang ended up with the puck at the right point and beat Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau for his fifth of the season.

Malkin and O’Connor got assists.

Montreal got the first power play of the game when Penguins winger Bryan Rust was sent off for tripping at 3:46 of the second, but was unable to capitalize on it, in part because Jarry made an excellent stop on Cole Caufield from left of the net.

Valtteri Puustinen nearly put the Penguins in front a few minutes later, but his shot off the rebound of a P.O Joseph shot slammed off the right goalpost.

Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher was assessed a holding minor at 11:24, and the Pittsburgh Penguins needed just six seconds to — get this — score an actual power-play goal.

Rust got it by deflecting in an Erik Karlsson shot from just inside the blue line for his 16th of the season and fifth in the past eight games. Sidney Crosby received the second assist.

Drew O’Connor padded the Penguins’ advantage just 21 seconds later, beating Primeau with a wrist shot from above the left hash mark for his eighth. The assists went to Puustinen and Karlsson.

That gave Karlsson his first two-point game since Jan. 4.

The Penguins got another chance with the extra man when Canadiens defenseman Arber Xhekaj tripped Malkin at 13:09, but they were unable to score a fourth goal.

The Penguins’ penalty-killers were tested twice during the first half of the third period, as Rickard Rakell was called for tripping at 3:38 and Rust picked up a tripping minor at 7:13, and fended off Montreal both times.

Letang closed out the scoring by hitting an empty net at 18:35.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a scheduled day off Friday. They plan to practice Saturday at 11 a.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.