Defense took a holiday Saturday night in Montreal, where the Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins played the kind of game that was not uncommon in 1983 -- but almost unheard-of in 2013.
Happily for the Penguins, the last goal belonged to them.
Brandon Sutter's goal 52 seconds into overtime gave Pittsburgh a 7-6 victory at the Bell Centre in the highest-scoring game in the National Hockey League this season.
The Penguins couldn't hold leads of 4-2 and 6-5, but snapped a two-game slide when Sutter took a pass from Simon Despres, stepped around a sliding Max Pacioretty and ripped a shot past Carey Price from the slot for his second of the game. Sutter's sixth goal of the season gave the Penguins a win in the kind of game they used to play often in the Mario Lemieux era -- but not so much in today's Sidney Crosby era.
The combined total of 13 goals is the most scored in any game so far this season -- the previous high was 11 -- and the game left Penguins coach Dan Bylsma shaking his head.
"I don't want to remember ever being in a game like this again," he said. "I don't think [Montreal coach Michel Therrien] or I will like a lot on the tape."
Artistic? Not so much. Entertaining? Without a doubt.
"If you ask both teams, it’s probably not the best way to win a game when you give up six goals," Sutter said. "But on the end of a road trip like that, I think it’s a great win. We still felt we played pretty well. We have to get a little tougher around our own net to keep some pucks out, but it’s a good win and it feels pretty good."
The winning goal started when Despres and James Neal broke out of their own zone. Despres saw Sutter coming late, hit him with a pass and Sutter beat Price cleanly.
"He just found me as the wide guy. I just had one guy to step around and I just tried to put my head down and shoot it," Sutter said.
Pittsburgh's win spoiled the night for Therrien, who was facing the franchise he led to the 2008 Stanley Cup Final for the first time since being fired in February 2009.
Like Bylsma, who succeeded him in Pittsburgh, Therrien was left wondering what happened.
"The best thing I can say about this game is that we came back and got a point," Therrien said after his team got a point for the 10th straight game (7-0-3), their longest such streak since late in the 1993-94 season. "This was a great game for the fans -- but this is the reason why coaches get gray hair."
Pittsburgh got a pair of second-period goals by Cooke to take a 4-2 lead before the Canadiens tied the score in the final 2:23 before intermission on tallies by Brian Gionta and P.K. Subban, setting the stage for a wild third period.
"Honestly, when a team scores two quick goals like this at the end of a period, it always hurts," Letang said. "But we had a good meeting yesterday and a good meeting this morning about staying focused and staying put. I think guys did a really good job."
David Desharnais put the Canadiens ahead 5-4 at 5:25 by knocking home the rebound of Alexei Emelin's shot. But Pittsburgh tied it at 8:33 when Kunitz raced into the high slot and one-timed Crosby's pass from behind the net behind Price.
Crosby put the Penguins back in front at 10:24 by slamming home the rebound of Letang's stuff attempt. But the lead lasted just 30 seconds before Gionta blasted a slap shot from beyond the top of the right circle past Tomas Vokoun for his second of the night.
Sutter then got his chance to be the hero.
"It wasn't pretty, but a win is a win," he said.
On a tough night for both goaltenders, Vokoun stopped 33 shots, while Price made 30 saves.
"We showed character by coming back, but that's not the way we want to play," Desharnais said. "We don't want to play a wide-open game like that, but we fell behind by two goals and we had to open things up."
Vokoun had no one but himself to blame for the game's first goal. Montreal defenseman Tomas Kaberle took a harmless-looking wrist shot from the left boards that Vokoun easily stopped -- but he left a rebound that Brandon Prust slammed into the net at 5:41 for his third goal of the season.
Crosby earned the game's first power play when Montreal's Tomas Plekanec had to hold him with 2:40 left to stop a scoring chance. The Penguins capitalized with 52.5 seconds left when Letang's slap shot from above the right circle hit the skate of Emelin and deflected onto the stick of Sutter, who snapped it into a wide-open side of the net.
Montreal went back in front at 4:14 of the second when Pacioretty lifted the rebound of rookie Brendan Gallagher's stuff try over Vokoun for his seventh of the season. That lead lasted less than four minutes -- Price stopped Crosby from the lower left circle, but Crosby controlled the rebound behind the net and fed Kunitz, who banked the puck off Price and into the net at 8:29 for his 10th of the season.
The Penguins grabbed the lead 31 seconds later when Cooke's long shot sailed past a screened Price. Cooke put his team up by two at 13:05 when his straightaway 40-foot wrister got through defenseman Josh Gorges attempt at a block and zipped past Price's glove.
Montreal made it a one-goal game at 17:37 when Gionta, skating between the circles, artfully deflected Francois Boullion's long shot past Vokoun. Subban snuck down from the blue line and fired home Gallagher's passout with :00.7 remaining to tie it. A video review confirmed that the puck crossed the goal line an instant before time ran out.
The Penguins didn't let the Canadiens' late blitz deflate them.
"It’s easy to get frustrated and kind of feel sorry for yourself when you lose a lead," Crosby said, "but we kept coming."
Material from team media was used in this report.
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