PITTSBURGH - Getting into penalty trouble proved costly for the Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday night.
Just 33 seconds after killing off a holding call on Paul Byron late in the third period while up by a goal, Penguins left-winger Conor Sheary managed to tie things up at three with 55 seconds to go to send the game to overtime.
Then, Michel Therrien's troops were called for too many men on the ice early in the extra frame and Evgeni Malkin's 16th goal of the season settled the score at 1:54. His picture-perfect snipe lifted the Penguins to a 4-3 victory and gave them their league-leading 17th home win of the year.
The loss meant that the Canadiens return home to Montreal with four out of a possible six points on their three-game road trip, which came to an end with a particularly tough result in Western Pennsylvania.
"I think we played solid and had a good game. Those penalties, they kill us. You can't do that. If you take too many penalties, they're eventually going to adjust and they're going to score. That's what happened. It cost us a point," said Alexander Radulov, who took little consolation in the fact that the Canadiens pushed one of the league's elite squads to the brink of suffering just their third regulation-time loss of the season in their own barn. "It's disappointing, obviously, because we really want to win. We've got to regroup and we've got to talk about it. It shouldn't be like this."
Radulov opened the scoring for the Canadiens with his eighth goal of the year. Paul Byron scored his 12th, and Brian Flynn's fourth of the 2016-17 campaign just 2:04 into the third period put Therrien's charges up by a goal, before Sheary factored in on the scoresheet and Malkin sealed the deal.
Meanwhile, Carey Price turned aside 37 of 41 shots against during another remarkable performance between the pipes that ultimately didn't yield the scoreline the Canadiens were looking for.
"He deserved to win. He made big saves all night long to keep us in the game," said Therrien, who clearly felt for his goaltender following the final buzzer, but acknowledged the fine work of his group as a whole against the defending Stanley Cup champs. "We played against a good club. We played a good game. Our third period was our best. They managed to tie things up on a lucky goal. Our team showed up against a really good team."
There's no denying that, which made it somewhat easier to look at and reflect upon the positives from the last five days.
"If we look at the road trip, we managed to get four out of a possible six points. Those points are going to be very important at the end of the year, for sure," said Mark Barberio. "It definitely wasn't the result we wanted, but I think we have to be proud of our effort."
Shea Weber, who appeared in his 800th career NHL game, shared similar thoughts before the Canadiens headed back to Montreal for a quick one-day break ahead of the next three-game road swing, which, ironically enough, begins in his longtime former hockey home of Nashville on Tuesday night.
"You come in and we're trying to improve our record on the road and I thought we played some good periods. We did some good things and scored some big goals to get us leads. We've got to find a way to close it out and be really stingy late in games, though," mentioned Weber, who hasn't really had a chance to ponder his return to Music City as of late. "Obviously, I was focused on these three games. We'll go home and try and get a little rest and get some work in Monday before we head to Nashville and focus on winning that game."