For the second time in two games since the Penguins lost winger Jake Guentzel for the season, the Penguins mustered only a pair of goals in regulation and earned a point for their effort. This time the Penguins earned the winner’s point when Brandon Tanev (8) finished Teddy Blueger’s uncontested chance for the Penguins 3-2 OT win at the Bell Center on Saturday night.
Montreal waited on the ice for a video review as Blueger nicked Montreal goalie Carey Price’s pad as he skated through the crease after Price made the initial save.
“They play up, and Teddy (Blueger) made a helluva play taking the puck to the net,” Tanev said. “I was fortunate enough to find the rebound.”
The Penguins trailed 2-1 into the third period. However, Penguins winger Bryan Rust scored his 17th goal in just 27 games midway through the period. Rust was panhandling for an opportunity around the Montreal net when Evgeni Malkin deflected wide Jack Johnson’s point blast. Rust (17) read the carom off the back wall and was in the position to chip the puck into an empty net.
About 90 seconds after Montreal scored the first goal of the game, the Penguins grind line evened the score. After Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped Brandon Tanev on a breakaway, the Penguins continued their attack. Moments later, Zach Aston-Reese sneaked through the Montreal defense and after a quick flip to his forehand, Aston-Reese (5) snapped it past Price from point-blank range.
“The resiliency of this group is phenomenal,” said Tanev. “It starts with our leadership. They do a great job of getting us ready for the game.”
Eight minutes into the game, Montreal rookie Nick Suzuki whizzed past Penguins defensemen Marcus Pettersson and John Marino to nullify an icing. After a pair of quick passes, uncovered Arturi Lehkonen (8) lit the lamp with a quick wrister from the slot.
Lehkonen scored again early in the second period when he gobbled up a Kris Letang turnover in front of the Penguins net. Lehkonen (9) neatly beat Matt Murray on the stick side.
The Penguins goalie made just his sixth start since Nov. 27. He was stellar and made a handful of important saves, including several during Penguins power plays in the second period. The statistical total wasn’t as impressive as the quality. Montreal had a pair of breakaways and a few odd-man rushes as the Penguins were loose with the puck or neutral zone coverage for parts of the game.
“I thought he was terrific. He made some big stops. The breakaway (save) he made in the third period was a huge save for us,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Those are game-changing saves.”
Murray also stopped Lehkonen’s hat trick bid when he closed the five-hole to deny Lehkonen’s third period breakaway. Murray stopped 26 of 28 shots. The Penguins also put up 38 shots on Price.
“I think Matt’s game is trending the right way. I think his last couple of starts have been pretty solid,” Sullivan said. “Tonight was his best.”
Penguins callup Sam Lafferty was sick and fellow rookie callup Thomas Di Pauli made his NHL debut. He played just over four minutes, had one shot and two hits.
Jared McCann, Malkin and Patric Hornqvist led all players in regulation with five shots on goal.