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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Canadiens 4

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Dan Bylsma won his first career NHL game as head coach as the Penguins earned an enormous victory against Montreal, a team that Pittsburgh is chasing in the standings for a playoff berth. The Penguins grabbed a crucial two points while the Canadiens picked up zero in a four-point swing.

Pittsburgh still sits in the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference but is just four points back from the eighth seed. In fact, only six points separates the Penguins from fifth spot in the East. The playoff picture in the East is getting convoluted. While the Penguins are still on the outside looking in, they are closing the gap.

Pittsburgh will embark on a difficult two-game road trip this weekend at Philadelphia (Saturday) and Washington (Sunday). The Penguins can enjoy this victory for tonight, but by Friday the focus must be on the Flyers.
(AP) - Sergei Gonchar's first goal gave Dan Bylsma his first win as an NHL coach.

Gonchar, playing only his third game after missing most of the season because of a shoulder injury, scored on a slap shot after Pittsburgh quickly squandered a two-goal lead in the third period and the Penguins beat slumping Montreal 5-4 Thursday night.

The Penguins had lost three of four before Ruslan Fedotenko fed Gonchar in the high slot, then went down low to screen goalie Carey Price in front to create the fifth goal in the first 7:18 of the third period. Evgeni Malkin and Max Talbot scored in the period's opening 3 minutes for Pittsburgh, but Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec scored less than 4 minutes apart to tie it at 4.

Dan Bylsma earned his first NHL victory as a head coach (photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Leadership
The Penguins leaders need to step up and deliver for the team in the postseason run. Pittsburgh had clutch performances against Montreal from Evgeni Malkin (1G, 1A, +3), Sidney Crosby (1A, +1, 71 percent faceoff wins) and Sergei Gonchar (GWG, +1, 22:47 ice time). Pittsburgh’s leaders were critical and hoisted the team to victory.

What Could Have Gone Better: Holding the Lead

The Penguins had leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2 and all three evaporated. Pittsburgh knocked the Canadiens down on several occasions but the Habs got back on their feet each time and tied the game. The Penguins persevered and finally landed the knockout blow midway in the third period. Pittsburgh shut down Montreal down in the final stretch to earn the victory. 
Sergei Gonchar played in only his third game of the season, but his presence is already obvious on the ice. In his first game at Mellon Arena, Gonchar nailed the game-winning goal halfway through the third period to lift the Penguins to an important triumph. He was a plus-1 in the game and logged nearly 23 minutes of ice time. With the game tied, 4-4, in the third period, the Penguins needed someone to come through for them. Gonchar delivered.
The Penguins struck first on Petr Sykora’s 22nd goal of the season. Evgeni Malkin carried the puck into the Montreal zone with speed and flipped a pass to Chris Minard down the far side. Minard put the puck on net and Habs goalie Carey Price tried to poke away the rebound. Sykora was able to elevate the puck over Price’s left arm and into the top, far corner. Pittsburgh 1, Montreal 0.

The Canadiens tied the game at 6:22 of the second period. The Penguins turned the puck over in the Montreal zone. Tomas Plekanec lead a three-on-two rush the other way. He gained the zone and dished the puck to Andrei Kostitsyn. Kostitsyn went hard to the net, drawing the Pittsburgh defender, before dropping the puck back to Plekanec, who one-timed a shot between Marc-Andre Fleury’s legs. Pittsburgh 1, Montreal 1.

Pittsburgh reclaimed the lead 1:03 later when Miroslav Satan snapped a seven-game goal-less streak with his 15th tally of the season. Malkin skated circles around the Canadiens in the Montreal zone before dumping it back to Mark Eaton. The Penguins blueliner sent the puck cross-ice to Ryan Whitney at the far point. Whitney unleashed a shot that Satan re-directed into the goal. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 1.

The Canadiens tied the game with a five-on-three advantage score late in the second period. Mathieu Schneider buried a one-timer from above the circles that eluded Fleury. Pittsburgh 2, Montreal 2.

Pittsburgh regained the advantage with a score 29 seconds into the third period. Ruslan Fedotenko carried the puck into the zone and passed it to Sidney Crosby on the near side. Crosby made a beautiful backdoor pass behind two Canadiens and to Malkin, who was trailing on the play. Malkin dove as he projected the puck into the net. Pittsburgh 3, Montreal 2.

Max Talbot scored his first goal in nine games to up the Penguins’ advantage. Jordan Staal took a shot on net. There was a scrum at the crease. Talbot calmly pulled the puck away from the scrum and sent it far side behind Price. Pittsburgh 4, Montreal 2.

Montreal cut into the Pittsburgh lead with a goal 14 seconds after the Penguins scored. Kostitsyn skated the puck into the Pittsburgh zone. He corralled the puck in above the far circle and sent a quick shot into the goal. Pittsburgh 4, Montreal 3,

The Canadiens tied the game on Plekanec’s second goal of the game. Plekanec took a slap shot from above the near circle. The rising shot sailed over Fleury’s left shoulder. Pittsburgh 4, Montreal 4.

Sergei Gonchar is back and in a big way. The Russian blueliner converted his first goal of the season to reclaim the lead for Pittsburgh. A broken stick had the Canadiens at a disadvantage and running around their own zone. Gonchar whipped a shot through a screen for the score. Crosby and Fedotenko, each picked up an assist on the goal, were obstructing Price’s view. Pittsburgh 5, Montreal 4.
Dan Bylsma notched his first career NHL victory as a head coach. Matt Cooke was nice enough to get the game puck for his new coach.

Eric Godard sparred with former Penguin heavyweight Georges Laraque. Godard tried to engage early but Laraque kept backing off, waiting for a chance to pounce. By the time Godard gripped Laraque’s jersey, he was off balance and fell to the ice

The game was tied at 2-2 entering the final frame. The game was a closely checked game in the opening two periods. That all changed in the third. Five goals were scored in the first 7:18 of the third period, more than the first two periods combined. Both teams combined for 28 shots for an exhilarating period of hockey.
> Pittsburgh improved to 28-25-6 on the year, with a 16-11-2 record at Mellon Arena. The Penguins have won seven of their last nine games at home.

> PIT, P.Sykora (22), 10:27 1st period: Penguins 1, Canadiens 0.
MTL, T.Plekanec (13), 6:22 2nd period: Penguins 1, Canadiens 1.
PIT, M.Satan (15), 7:25 2nd period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 1.
MTL, M.Schneider PP (5), 15:04 2nd period: Penguins 2, Canadiens 2.
PIT, E.Malkin (26), 0:29 3rd period: Penguins 3, Canadiens 2.
PIT, M.Talbot (7), 3:00 3rd period: Penguins 4, Canadiens 2.
MTL, A.Kostitsyn (22), 3:13 3rd period: Penguins 4, Canadiens 3.
MTL, T.Plekanec (14), 6:31 3rd period: Penguins 4, Canadiens 4.
PIT, S.Gonchar (1), 7:18 3rd period: Penguins 5, Canadiens 4.

> 12 different Penguins tallied a point in the game.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied a goal and assist against the Canadiens to extend his NHL lead in points to 84 (26G-58A). Malkin’s 58 assists are a league best. In his last 19 games, Malkin has collected 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points. Malkin has notched a point in 14 of his last 17 games.

> Sidney Crosby notched an point against Montreal. He is third in the league in scoring with 74 points (21G-53A) and his 53 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 58. In Crosby’s last 18 games, he’s posted six goals and 18 assists for 24 points in that span.

> Sergei Gonchar scored his first goal of the year and first regular-season score since
April 2, 2008, vs. Philadelphia.

> Miroslav Satan notched his first goal in his last eight games.

> Ruslan Fedotenko tallied two assists for his fourth mulit-point game of the season.

> Ryan Whitney notched an assist in the game, which was his 150th career point.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 96th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,968.
1. E.Malkin, PIT
2. T.Plekanec, MTL
3. S.Gonchar, PIT
“Yes, they came back, but everybody on the bench said,
'OK, we can still do this.' They came back and the
game was tied, but we kind of knew we were
going to win that game.”
- Max Talbot


Author: Sam Kasan

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