MONTREAL – Sidney Crosby says linemate Pascal Dupuis’s secret weapon is his “knuckle puck.”
Whatever it’s called, it worked as Dupuis drilled a shot from outside on the left circle and saw it dip, go off goaltender Carey Price’s glove and drop into the net to break a tie and give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
“He’s got a great shot, we’ve seen it a few times,” said Crosby. “If it knuckles, you can’t really blame Price. It was moving everywhere.”
The Dupuis goal at 13:21 of the third period helped the Penguins end a two-game winless run and eke out a one-goal victory in a game they otherwise dominated, outshooting Montreal 41-21.
Sergei Gonchar also scored, with an assist from Dupuis, and set up a Matt Cooke goal for the Penguins (21-10-1).
“The puck was on edge, but I tried to shoot it as hard as I can,” said Dupuis. “If the goalie doesn’t know where it is, that’s good.”
The game ended with the Bell Centre crowd of 21,273 booing as only 1:13 after the Dupuis goal, referee Chris Lee’s quick whistle nullified what could have been the tying goal by Montreal’s Scott Gomez in a goalmouth scramble.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury thought he had the puck covered, but it was loose and Gomez slid it in only to have it waved off.
Montreal coach Jacques Martin, whose team ended a three-game winning streak, measured his words.
“That’s the rule – if the referee intends to whistle, the play is dead,” he said. “The puck was there but there’s nothing you can do.”
Gomez said: “Maybe he blew it a little quick, but you don’t want to be in that situation. I’m not going to say anything bad about the refs. They’ve got a job to do and they do it well. Call it mistake or what, but these things happen.”
Matt D’Agostini and Roman Hamrlik scored for Montreal (15-15-2), which was kept in the game by Price’s strong play in the net, opportunistic goals and another effective performance by the penalty killers. The Canadiens killed five Pittsburgh power plays and have now killed 27 in a row over the last six games.
Defenceman Josh Gorges decried the number of penalties the Canadiens have been taking. Their 156 minor penalties this season is second only to Philadelphia’s 162, although their relatively few major penalties has them 12th in the league at 12.9 penalty minutes per game.
“We’re taking way too many penalties – it’s killing us,” said Gorges. “Our penalty killers are doing a great job, but we’re spending way too much time in our own end.
“They’re building energy and we’re wasting energy. Turnovers lead to penalties. We’ve got to clean up our game. We were in it, but we’ve got to play a lot better.”
The Penguins improved to 3-0 against Montreal, after wins at home of 6-1 and 3-1 earlier in the season.
It was a fast-paced first period with end-to-end rushes by both clubs but only one goal, as Crosby played decoy at the side of the net while Gonchar sneaked in off the point to slap in a feed from Bill Guerin at 6:38.
A Montreal penalty had just ended when D’Agostini jumped onto the ice, poked the puck off Jordan Staal’s stick and fired in his second goal, and first since Oct. 24, high to the stick side on Fleury 10:48 into the second. It was Montreal’s first shot of the period.
Hamrlik’s point shot got through traffic for Montreal’s fourth power-play goal in the last three games at 13:38. Marc-Andre Bergeron picked up his fourth point in three games on the goal.
Pittsburgh tied it with 2:15 left in the period as Gonchar’s wrist shot changed direction off Cooke and beat Price.
Evgeni Malkin put a shot off the crossbar from the slot in the opening minute of the third.
Notes: The Canadiens recalled defenceman Yannick Weber from AHL Hamilton but didn’t use him. …Jaroslav Spacek, who hurt his right knee Tuesday in Ottawa, was able to play. He was listed with 11 turnovers in the game, while no other player had more than three… D Paul Mara sat out with a shoulder injury. … Montreal sent Benoit Pouliot to Hamilton for conditioning. He was acquired Nov. 23 from Minnesota for Guillaume Latendresse but has yet to play for the Canadiens. … Alex Goligoski returned for Pittsburgh after missing 10 of the last 11 games with a groin injury. Chris Kunitz remains out with a lower body injury. …Eric Godard played his 300th NHL game.