Two interesting twists to the lineup - Matt Murray starts for the second night in a row, and Jared McCann jumps up to the Guentzel-Crosby line for the first time.
The Penguins strike quickly just 19 seconds in. Jordie Benn makes a bad pass up the middle that Sidney Crosby picks off. Sid runs a give and go with Jake Guentzel and tucks the puck juuuust inside of the post by Carey Price to send Pittsburgh off and running.
THAT'S OUR CAPTAIN.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 3, 2019
Sidney Crosby records his 440th NHL goal, passing Jaromir Jagr for the 2nd-most in franchise history.
Crosby now has goals in four-straight games. pic.twitter.com/A5smZjQvWU
The hits keep coming, the Canadiens take a penalty and Evgeni Malkin unleashes a slapper from downtown and Patric Hornqvist’s screen is enough to take the goalie’s eyes away and make it 2-0 just 4:38 into the game.
Malkin after yesterday's game: "We have a good team. We need to play together. Tomorrow we play back-to-back against a good team (Montreal). We need to fight. There are no easy games anymore. It's a good challenge before the playoffs."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 3, 2019
So far, so good. pic.twitter.com/HjslwC4EQF
Why not make it 3-0? Crosby wins an o-zone draw and a perk of Guentzel lining up on right wing is that he’s basically in the “James Neal” spot. Guentzel quickly flings the puck on net and it somehow trickles through Price to have the Pens running away with this one 8:36 into the contest for Guentzel’s 30th goal of the season.
Down 3-0 early at home - if you can believe it - Montreal gets two power plays. Matt Murray does well to make a few saves and is aided by his post on one Shea Weber shot and Pittsburgh survives both penalties.
Max Domi sneaks behind Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz for a breakaway, another big save by Murray.
Shots end up 12-4 Montreal in the first period.
The Pens get a power play early when Brendan Gallagher cross-checks Schultz into the net. Pittsburgh doesn’t score but Crosby and Nick Bjugstad get a couple good looks at the net.
Pittsburgh does make it 4-0 when Crosby and Guentzel work another quick give-and-go with Jake doing the honors this time for his second goal of the game.
Montreal makes it 4-1 soon after, Gallagher does some hard work and the Habs get a friendly bounce for the puck to come back to him and he’s able to get a goal.
Pittsburgh gets a power play when Malkin gets interfered with, but Marcus Pettersson takes a holding call late in it to send the Pens back to the PK. Guentzel gets a 4v4 breakaway, dekes backhand but Price holds strong.
Zach Aston-Reese earns another breakaway, but again Price has the answer. Pens looking good for dangerous chances on the counter-attack.
After being badly outshot in the first, the Pens bounce back to outshoot the Habs 16-11 in the second period. The shots are 23-20 MTL overall to this point.
Not much going on in the first half of the period, Murray robs Paul Byron on a breakaway with a sense of ease.
The Pens take the foot off the gas, it’s all about Murray making saves at this point, which he’s able to do later in a game for a change from recent games.
McCann hits an empty netter to remove all doubts and make it 5-1
- The Pens score 3 goals on their first 4 shots before the first TV timeout. Crosby factored into all of the goals. Pittsburgh wouldn’t get a shot on goal for the last 11+ minutes of the first period.
- Some intrigue that coach Mike Sullivan turns to Murray for the second night in a row, and I believe that makes 20 of the last 28 games since December when Murray returned from injury that he’s played. It’s always dicey and statistically a bad play to use a goalie two nights in a row, but Murray was sound. And this time of year they need to play their #1 guy.
- Plus there’s two days off after this. Love the message after an OT loss last night (in a game they should have won) to adopt a “burn the boats” mentality and play the starter again on the road, against a team directly in the playoff chase. This is go time, and you gotta lean on your top guys when it’s go time. Murray leaned back and made it work too, which always pays off too and of course is very encouraging to see.
- Great stat from Sportsnet: Pens are now 128-8-1 when Crosby records 3+ points in a game. Which only begs the thought - what the hell happened in those nine losses?
- This team was running on Crosby+Guentzel power tonight. Nothing wrong with that. For the forever search of a “winger for Sid” that never seemed to happen from 2005-always (save those few months with Hossa, and apologies to the incessant effort of Kunitz and Dupuis), Guentzel is the perfect answer. His IQ, chemistry, touch, hands, vision - it all adds up to a perfect match. Pittsburgh is really reaping the benefits, we’ve seen it for the past couple of seasons and it was on full display again in this one.
- Pettersson got lucky in the second to get away with one when he tackled Max Domi. Wasn’t so lucky his next shift to get whistled for another hold. Needs to button that up a little bit, the defense is definitely stressed right now with injuries but they need that kid to grow up fast with the role he’s in currently.
- First loss for Montreal on home ice in regulation since January 19th. Big time win tonight
Great game to bounce back from last night, Pens beat a good team on the road. Needed it too since Carolina won, and Columbus lost. Pittsburgh ties Montreal overall in the standings, and at least for a night inches over CBJ for a playoff spot.