For all his offensive skill, in spite of the many accomplishments and accolades over a short period of time in the NHL, there was one area where Evgeni Malkin had enjoyed very little success.
Historically, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward has not been clutch in the shootout. He entered Monday night's game against the Boston Bruins a meager 3-for-17 since entering the League in the 2006-07 season.
But when 60 minutes of regulation, five minutes of overtime and four rounds of a shootout failed to produce a winner, Malkin stepped up. He skated in and snapped a shot past Tim Thomas and when Dany Sabourin followed with a stop on Marc Savard, the Penguins had a 2-1 victory in the Bruins' home opener at TD Banknorth Garden.
"If it wasn't for him (Sabourin) tonight, early on, we would have been down by two or three," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
Miroslav Satan scored in regulation for Pittsburgh and Sabourin came up big with 35 saves in his first start of the season. Phil Kessel beat Sabourin in the first round of the shootout, but he allowed nothing to the next four Boston skaters, while Petr Sykora got the Penguins even in the second round, setting up Malkin's winning shot.
"The first period, I think they had 16 shots, that got me right in the game right away," Sabourin said. "I didn't have to wait."
Kessel's power-play goal in the second period drew the Bruins even and Thomas finished with 31 saves in what turned out to be an excellent goaltending battle.
"I think (Thomas) did very, very well. Solid performance from both goaltenders," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "I thought we had some great chances and I thought their goaltender came up big as well. It was no doubt a goaltender duel tonight and unfortunately we came on the short end of it."
The Bruins were the last of the 30 NHL teams to make their home debut, starting with a successful 2-1-1 road trip. They had several opportunities in the opening period to jump on top, as the Penguins were assessed the first three minor penalties of the game, but it was Satan who would end up atoning for the hooking call that had him in the box.
As soon as Satan jumped back on the ice after serving his two minutes, he found himself in a 2-on-1 break with Sidney Crosby, who slid the puck across to Satan for his fourth goal of the season with 1:09 left in the first, six seconds after his penalty expired.
Jordan Staal was called for holding with 7:17 left in the second and this time the Bruins capitalized. Kessel took a feed from Andrew Ference and stepped into a shot that blasted past Sabourin 6:07 before the intermission. Kessel's fifth goal was all the scoring until the shootout began.
Canadiens 3, Panthers 1 | VIDEO
Francis Bouillon isn't known for his goal scoring, but the Montreal defenseman sure can pick his spots.
Playing in his first game of the season, the 17th goal of Bouillon's nine-year NHL career snapped a 1-1 tie midway through the third period and led the Canadiens to their fifth-straight victory.
Bouillon, who was sidelined by a leg injury in Montreal's first five games of the season, drove a slap shot from the left point past Tomas Vokoun for an unassisted goal with 9:07 left in regulation.
"Goals like that don't come around very often for me," said Bouillon, who scored twice in 44 games last season.
The Canadiens, who sit atop the Northeast Division with a 5-0-1 record, also got an early goal from Saku Koivu -- the Montreal captain's 600th career point -- and an empty-net tally by Tomas Plekanec.
Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves for the victory but was denied a shutout when Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard scored 7:20 into the third to tie the score.
"I think we got outplayed by the opponent tonight, there's no doubt about that, and without his performance, without his great game, it would have been a really long night for us," Koivu said.
After a scoreless first period, Koivu got the Canadiens on the board 2:07 into the second when he converted off a no-look back pass from Andrei Markov, who had fanned on his original shot attempt. Markov passed from the left side into the slot, where Koivu scored into a wide-open net for his third of the season and third in as many games. It was also the ninth assist already for Markov, who has at least one in all six games Montreal has played.
"He just showed what kind of vision he has, and when you play with him, you have to expect a pass any time, but I was surprised, and I think everybody in this building was a bit surprised," Koivu said.
Ballard, who had 19 career goals in 233 games with Phoenix before being acquired in the offseason in the Olli Jokinen trade, buried a Cory Stillman rebound off an odd-man rush, but the Panthers suffered a rare regulation defeat at Bell Centre. They had five wins, one tie and three non-regulation losses there since Jan. 28, 2003, and are the only NHL franchise with an all-time winning record against the Canadiens (27-18-11).
"We know we can play with anybody," said Vokoun, who made 31 saves and acknowledged that he was screened on the winning goal and never saw Markov's shot. "We could have won this game -- they won it, but it was up for grabs until late in the third, and sometimes that's just the way it goes. Everybody played great tonight, from our part. It's tough to lose but we played well, and if we play like this, we're going to win most of the games."
Avalanche 4, Kings 3 | VIDEO
The monkey is off the back off Colorado goaltender Peter Budaj.
Without a victory in his first three starts of the season entering Monday's game against Los Angeles at Staples Center, Budaj sat and watched as Andrew Raycroft won consecutive games against Philadelphia and Dallas.
It was Budaj back in net against the Kings, however, and he responded with a 26-save effort. Ryan Smyth scored a pair of goals while Milan Hejduk registered his sixth of the season and added an assist.
''It's obviously a privilege playing with those two guys,'' Smyth said of Hejduk and fellow linemate Paul Stastny. ''I'm a guy that mucks it up a bit and goes to the net a little harder than those guys because they have that ability to create, and they've played together since Paulie's been in the league. So that makes my job a lot easier.''
''It was awesome. It was so good to finally get that goal. It just gave me that boost of confidence. After I got that goal, I was more in the play and rushing the puck a little more. So it was really good. But obviously, it would've been a lot better to win the game.''" -- Drew Doughty on his first NHL goal
David Jones notched the go-ahead goal in the second period for the Avalanche, becoming the 15th different player on the team to score in the first six games of the season.
''We were sharp around the net,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ''We didn't play well enough to create a lot of chances, but when we got our chances, we made the most of them.''
Despite the loss, Los Angeles got a pleasant glimpse at its future as Oscar Moller and Drew Doughty each scored his first NHL goal. Moller opened the scoring on a first-period power play, while Doughty, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, cut the Colorado lead to 4-3 by ripping a shot past Budaj early in the third.
Patrick O'Sullivan also scored for the Kings, who replaced starting goalie Jason LaBarbera after two periods after he gave up four goals on 14 shots. Erik Ersberg faced only two shots in the third and stopped both.
Moller and Smyth traded goals in the opening period before O'Sullivan gave the Kings a short-lived lead when he scored 3:02 into the second. Hejduk tied the score 59 seconds later and Jones made it two goals in a span of 1:15 for the Avalanche with a 35-foot slapper that beat LaBarbera for a 3-2 Colorado lead. Both goals came off Los Angeles turnovers in the defensive zone.
Smyth added an insurance goal before the period ended, stickhandling past Doughty on the play, and it was important because Doughty, the first defenseman to be taken in this year's draft, came back and wristed a 15-footer between the legs of John-Michael Liles and into the net 2:25 into the final period for his first tally.
''A young kid of his caliber is going to go through a lot of ups and downs in his career, but he's a phenomenal hockey player,'' Smyth said. ''That play (Smyth's goal) was just a matter of a little bit of inexperience on his part, but he'll get it.''
''It was awesome. It was so good to finally get that goal,'' Doughty said. ''It just gave me that boost of confidence. After I got that goal, I was more in the play and rushing the puck a little more. So it was really good. But obviously, it would've been a lot better to win the game.''
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.