With head coach Dan Bylsma announcing just a few hours before the puck dropped that Pittsburgh would be without leading scorer and captain Sidney Crosby and forward Matt Cooke in Thursday’s game against Montreal, the Penguins lines experienced a shakeup as they rotated 11 forwards and dressed seven defensemen. But they managed to come away with a point, falling to the Canadiens 2-1 in a shootout.
The Penguins didn’t miss a beat in the first period, with Arron Asham scoring just 2:16 in to put Pittsburgh up 1-0. The opening 20 minutes flew by, with no penalties called on either team and the Penguins dominating the flowing play, holding a 13-5 advantage in shots and taking a 1-0 lead into the second. But the Canadiens turned it up a notch in the middle frame, outshooting the Penguins 13-7 and tying the game on a goal from Benoit Pouliot with 12:28 left in the period.
With both teams trading the momentum back and forth throughout the first 40 minutes, the third period became an absolute battle. With neither squad able to pull ahead, the game came down to the goaltenders, who both performed impressively – especially Penguins netminder Brent Johnson.
After earning a win Dec. 22 versus Florida, Johnson missed the following three games due to injury and sat out the three after that. But he looked extremely sharp on Thursday, making a total of 22 saves, including three on a lengthy 5-on-3 power play for the Canadiens halfway through the third period.
In a shootout symbolic of the game, each goaltender stoned four shooters before Pouliot was able to push the puck past Johnson. This marked Montreal's first shootout of the season.
Brent Johnson put up a huge performance between the pipes for the Penguins on Thursday. He stopped 22 shots in regulation and stoned four of five Canadiens in the shootout to help his team earn a point in the standings.
He played solidly all night for the Penguins, but Johnson really shined through the final 40 minutes, starting by standing tall against the Canadiens’ second period barrage. Less than five minutes into the middle frame, he made a sequence of big saves on some quality shorthanded chances by Travis Moen and Brian Gionta and proceeded to make 12 saves in the period.
In the third, Johnson made some huge saves on a string of Montreal power-play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 power play that lasted for a full two minutes and was immediately followed by a 5-on-4 power play that lasted for 1:30. The Penguins like to emphasize that their goalie has to be their best penalty killer, and Johnson fulfilled that role to a "T".
In a tight battle where both teams played some fantastic hockey, Johnson kept the Penguins in the game throughout regulation, overtime and the shootout. He looked like he hadn't missed a beat after missing the last six games, three due to injury.
He is now 8-3-2 on the season.
The Penguins proved why they have one of the top-two penalty kills in the league about halfway through the third period.
It started with Alex Goligoski getting sent to the box for tripping with 10:20 left in the final frame. Just 22 seconds later, Brent Johnson’s clearing attempt sailed over the boards and out of play, getting him whistled for delay of game and giving the Canadiens a 5-on-3 power play for 1:39. In an odd twist of fate, with 14 seconds left on Montreal’s two-man advantage, Paul Martin also got whistled for delay of game That gave the Habs a 22-second 5-on-3 power play when Goligoski left the box, and a 5-on-4 power play for 1:30 when Johnson’s penalty expired.
Somehow, someway, the Penguins managed to kill off that mess of penalties and preserve the 1-1 deadlock, allowing the Canadiens to record just two shots on goal during the two-man advantage. The Penguins came up with some crucial shot blocks and Brent Johnson stopped every blast that came his way. The Penguins went on to finish regulation tied 1-1 and earned a point in the standings despite falling in the shootout.
MONTREAL (AP) - Benoit Pouliot scored on Montreal's fifth shootout attempt to give the Canadiens a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were missing injured captain Sidney Crosby on Thursday night.
Carey Price, who made 31 saves through overtime, was perfect in the shootout. He denied Kris Letang, Pascal Dupuis, Evgeni Malkin and Mark Letestu before stopping Chris Kunitz on Pittsburgh's final attempt. Pouliot deked Brent Johnson and let the puck slide into the right side of the net as Montreal won in its first shootout of the season. He also scored the tying goal in the second period as the Canadiens improved to 2-0-1 following a three-game losing streak.
Arron Asham scored in the first period for Pittsburgh, 1-2-1 in its last four games. Johnson made 22 saves, including stopping the only shot he faced in overtime.
Crosby, who leads the NHL with 32 goals and 66 points, missed his first game of the season because of an undisclosed upper body injury. He flew back to Pittsburgh on Thursday to be re-evaluated by team doctors after he was injured Wednesday in the Penguins' 8-1 home victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Penguins forward Matt Cooke also returned to Pittsburgh because of personal reasons.
• Sidney Crosby missed the game with an upper-body injury that he suffered on Wednesday in the Penguins’ 8-1 win over Tampa Bay, returning to Pittsburgh earlier today to be evaluated by team doctors. Tonight’s game marked the first time the Penguins captain has been out of the lineup this season. Crosby missed just one game last season, a 2-1 overtime loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 5 at Mellon Arena.
• Arron Asham had a huge first period, scoring the Penguins’ only goal just 2:16 into the first. He blasted four of the Penguins’ 13 shots and threw two hits in the opening period. He continued his dominant play throughout the remainder of the game, ending with a team-leading five hits and five shots through 11:29 of ice time.
• Asham actually began his professional career with the Canadiens, who drafted him in the 3rd round (71st overall) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the first four seasons of his NHL career with Montreal before heading to the New York Islanders in 2002.
• Defenseman Deryk Engelland played a little bit of forward with Crosby and Cooke being out of the lineup. He saw time on the Penguins' fourth line with Mike Rupp and Craig Adams, telling FSN’s Dan Potash during the second intermission that he hadn’t played forward since his time with Las Vegas of the East Coast Hockey League.
• Alex Goligoski and Ben Lovejoy earned assists on Asham’s goal, giving the two blueliners each two-game point streaks. They’re playing huge for Pittsburgh, with Goligoski tallying a career-high four points on Wednesday and Lovejoy notching his first-career multiple-point night with two assists in that game.
#1. Benoit Pouliot Left wing - 39
Scored tying goal Tallied lone shootout goal 14:23 TOI