MONTREAL – With Sidney Crosby still out with a concussion, Jordan Staal stepped up to put the reeling Pittsburgh Penguins back into the win column.
Staal had a goal and two assists for his first points of the season as the Penguins struck four times on the power play to defeat the undisciplined Montreal Canadiens 5-2 on Wednesday night.
Alex Goligoski had two goals and an assist while all-star nominee Kris Letang had three assists for the Penguins (27-14-4), who won for the first time in four games since Crosby was sidelined.
”It was definitely a nice win for us,” said Staal. ”It was a full team effort.
”With or without Sid, we’re going to try to play a good team game and get the wins.”
Staal was in his sixth game back from a foot injury suffered in the spring when the defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins were upset in seven games by the Canadiens in the second round of playoffs.
They had lost four in a row to Montreal, including the final two post-season games and their first two regular-season matchups. And it was their second visit in six days to Montreal, where their 2-1 shootout loss last week was capped by Canadiens goalie Carey Price celebrating with a folded arms gesture.
As the final siren sounded after the Penguins’ win, their goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury struck the same pose in his crease.
”He’s a jokester on this team,” Staal said of Fleury.
Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz also scored for Pittsburgh, who fell behind 2-1 and roared back with four straight power-play goals.
”They beat us in the playoffs and they beat us twice this year, so it’s good to win,” said Letang. ”We were challenged and I think the guys responded.”
David Desharnais scored his first career NHL goal and Tomas Plekanec also had a goal for Montreal (24-17-3), which ended a five-game stretch without a regulation loss.
The Canadiens were coming off a 2-1 win against the Rangers in New York on Tuesday night but coach Jacques Martin would not accept fatigue as an excuse.
”Why should they be fatigued?” he said. ”You play a lot of back-to-back games in a season. Your responsibility is to be ready. It’s your job.”
The Penguins will likely be missing NHL scoring leader Crosby again when they play Saturday in Boston. Coach Dan Bylsma said Crosby is still feeling symptoms from his concussion and can’t contemplate a return until they subside.
Despite his absence and that of Montreal sniper Michael Cammalleri, who missed a second game with flu-like symptoms, the teams produced an end-to-end contest with good chances at both ends. But the Canadiens faded in the third as they were outshot 36-22 overall by Pittsburgh.
The biggest difference was Pittsburgh went 4-for-6 with the man advantage against what had been the NHL’s best penalty-killing team. Montreal went 0-for-3 against the league’s second-best short-handed club.
That will make the Penguins the league’s new penalty-killing leaders.
Price made some fine saves in the opening period but he had no chance as Goligoski took a pass from Kunitz on a rush and drilled a shot into the top corner 12:57 into the game.
Only 18 seconds later, Benoit Pouliot’s pass went off Mathieu Darche to Plekanec alone at the side of the net to tie the game.
Desharnais was in the right circle to redirect P.K. Subban’s shot past Fleury just 2:25 into the second. But Kennedy got it back just under two minutes later on a power play when set up by Letang after Staal won a faceoff in the Montreal zone.
Desharnais, a scoring star in the AHL the last two seasons who was in his fifth game since his most recent callup, got his first goal in 11 career NHL games.
Montreal was called for too many men late in the period and, with 11 seconds to play, Letang’s pass to Staal was taken by Montreal defenceman Jaroslav Spacek and handed to Staal in the left circle for a low shot that dribbled through Price’s pads.
After the game, Letang said the official scorer ”stole” an assist from him or he would have had four points on the night and moved into a tie with Nicklas Lidstrom and Dustin Byfugien forthe league lead among defencemen with 41 points.
Another power play in the third saw Price fail to cover the puck with his glove in the crease. Staal tipped it to Goligoski for his second of the game at 2:33. Still another man advantage saw Kunitz tip Letang’s shot from the point at 11:29.
Notes—The Penguins are 22-13-8 all-time without Crosby in the lineup. . . Defenceman Ben Lovejoy sat out a second straight game for the Pens. . . Alex Picard was a scratch for Montreal. . . Montreal is 65-17-12 all-time at home against the Pens.