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by Staff Writer / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Montreal Canadiens avoided a season sweep to the Penguins with a 6-5 win Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

The Penguins won the first three contests against Montreal this season, but the Canadiens, who are fighting for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first and held on for the win.

“We played hard. We worked hard and played hard and I thought we were the best team on the ice,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “But, you need breaks to win games. We didn’t have any breaks. All the breaks were against us. It was one of those nights. The hockey god was not on our side tonight.”

Christopher Higgins gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead 4:24 into the game when he converted a power-play goal.

Radek Bonk gave Montreal a 2-0 advantage when he chipped a puck over Fleury 41 seconds later.

Colby Armstrong scored 41 seconds into the second period to slice the Penguins’ deficit to 2-1. Sidney Crosby skated down the far boards and fired a cross-ice pass to Armstrong. He one-timed it through David Aebischer’s leg pads. Sergei Gonchar assisted on the play as well.

Higgins scored his second goal of the game to increase Montreal’s lead to 3-1 with 16:36 left in the second.

Tomas Surovy cut the Penguins’ deficit to 3-2 with 13:56 on the clock. He slammed in a rebound past Aebischer. Michel Ouellet and Noah Welch assisted on the goal.

Alexei Kovalev banged in a rebound with 9:09 to go to push the Canadiens’ lead to 4-2.

Armstrong tallied again with 7:09 on the clock with a short-handed goal. Hilbert’s shot bounced off Aebischer right to Armstrong, who slammed it in the goal.

Kovalev scored a power-play goal with 19.2 seconds on the clock for a 5-3 lead.

Welch rifled a slap-shot past Aebischer 1:39 into the third to cut the Penguins’ deficit to 5-4. It was his first NHL goal. Josef Melichar and Crosby assisted on the play.

“We played a good team tonight,” Welch said. “But, we played hard and it showed.”

Armstrong nearly completed the hat-trick when Hilbert’s shot deflected off Armstrong and into the goal with 12:22 to play. However, Armstrong was ruled to have intentionally knocked the puck into the net with his arm, so the goal was waved off.

“It was just a shot that Hilby put at the net and it hit a stick and came up and hit me – and it was more of a reaction – and went into the net,” Armstrong said.

Michael Ryder put Montreal up, 6-4, when he kept the puck on a 2-on-1 and roofed it past Marc-Andre Fleury with seven minutes to go.

John LeClair brought the Penguins within 6-5 just 1:05 later when he knocked in his 399th career goal. Konstantin Koltsov and Ryan Malone assisted on the play.

The Penguins return to action Wednesday when they welcome Florida.

ICE CHIPS: The Penguins’ scratches were Eric Cairns and Niklas Nordgren…The announced attendance was 14,807.

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