Koivu scored twice in a four-goal second period as the Canadiens ended the Pittsburgh Penguins’ four-game winning streak with a 6-3 victory on Saturday night.
It was Koivu’s fourth two-goal game of the month – one short of a team record for multi-goal games last accomplished in 1976 by Hall of Famer Steve Shutt.
“I’m more of a playmaker than a scorer, but right now the puck’s going in for me,” said Koivu, who leads the Canadiens with 14 goals. “I’m enjoying it. I want to keep the streak going.”
The play of their captain hasn’t gone unnoticed by the other Canadiens.
“Saku’s been our most consistent player all year,” said Sheldon Souray. “It’s great to see the puck go in for him.
“He always plays good, it’s just that sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.”
Crosby, checked relentlessly by the Montreal line of Radek Bonk, Mike Johnson and Alexander Perezhogin, had a relatively quiet game with only one assist.
The 19-year-old league scoring leader had 10 points in his previous two games. Crosby also saw his run of six games in a row with a goal stopped.
“That line was a big reason why Crosby didn’t have a big night,” said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, whose team has won three in a row and has points in its last six games.
Montreal, among the league leaders on special teams all season, went four-for-seven on the power play and held Pittsburgh to 0-for-seven.
Alex Kovalev and Souray also scored in the middle period and Michael Ryder had one in the first for Montreal (19-8-5). Rookie Maxim Lapierre added a goal into an empty net with 20 seconds left in the game.
Rookie Evgeni Malkin and Alain Nasreddine scored in the first period and Erik Christensen had one in the third for Pittsburgh (14-12-5), which was coming off a 7-4 win Friday night over the New York Islanders and showed little energy after the first period.
“I don’t want to use it as an excuse but it was our fourth game in six days,” said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien. “We had a good start, but as the game went on we seemed to lose our focus.”
A full house of 21,273 turned out and there was a buzz in the air over the first visit of the season by Crosby and the Penguins’ other young talents.
They watched the visitors outshoot Montreal 17-3 in the opening period and the Canadiens roar back to post a 23-6 advantage in the second. Pittsburgh had a 34-33 shot advantage at the end of the game.
Malkin made a sweet play to open the scoring 12:05 into the match as he made a drop pass on a rush to Christensen and went to the net to bang in the rebound for his 16th goal in only 28 NHL games.
Ryder blasted a cross-ice pass from Guillaume Latendresse into the top corner on a power play at 18:34, but Crosby fed Nasreddine in front for a goal with only .02 of a second left in the period.
The Penguins took four minor penalties in the middle period and Montreal made them pay.
Kovalev beat Marc-Andre Fleury from a bad angle at 9:29 and Koivu got one at even strength at 15:50 from the left circle.
Souray wired in his 12th of the season during a two-man advantage at 17:25 and Koivu got his second of the game when he redirected Markov’s pass with five seconds left in the period.
Christensen was left unmarked to bang in Maxime Talbot’s pass from in front of the net 14:53 into the final period.
“You can’t allow four power play goals and expect to win,” said Penguins veteran Mark Recchi. “We knew they had great special teams and they were the difference in this game.”
Koivu has 43 points in 35 career games against Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh forward Jarkko Ruutu was ejected 9:13 into the third period for causing a ruckus in the penalty box after taking a cross-check in the face from Souray and then starting a shoving match with Craig Rivet on the ice.
Notes – Bonk, who broke his nose when hit by a puck against Tampa Bay on Thursday, played with a full face cage. . . Chris Higgins returned after 18 games out with a sprained ankle and had 15:08 of ice time. . . Steve Begin (back) missed a third game. Janne Niinimaa, Aaron Downey and Garth Murray were scratched… Ronald Petrovicky and Nils Ekman didn’t play for Pittsburgh.