MONTREAL – Benoit Pouliot provided all the offence the Montreal Canadiens would need against a Pittsburgh Penguins team missing its superstar.
Pouliot scored in regulation and added the shootout winner as the Canadiens beat the Penguins 2-1 Thursday.
Arron Asham replied for Pittsburgh, which was missing NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby. He returned to Pittsburgh prior to the game and will be out at least a week with a mild concussion.
“It’s something that every team goes to from time to time and I thought most of the guys stepped up real well and played the minutes we needed to at least get a point,” said Penguins forward Jordan Staal.
Pouliot showed some offensive prowess in the shootout in a game that was largely a goaltender’s duel. Pouliot skated in on Penguins goalie Brent Johnson, baited him over to the left and then slipped the puck in one-handed on the other side.
“We won, we got the extra point and we got to keep going,” Pouliot said. “It was a huge win, they are first in the East, and we battled through it, picked it up after the first and won the game.”
Goaltending was strong on both sides. Carey Price stopped 31 shots for the Habs while Johnson made 22 saves for Pittsburgh.
Montreal (22-16-3) was struggling heading into Thursday’s game with just three wins in its last 12 games. The Canadiens haven’t won consecutive games since Dec. 2-7.
The Penguins (26-12-4) had ended a two game slide Wednesday night with an 8-1 blowout win over the Lightning. They still lead the Eastern conference with 56 points.
Pittsburgh scored the first goal of the game at 2:14 of the first period. Ben Lovejoy fired a point shot and the rebound kicked out to Asham, who had an easy tap in.
Pouliot tied the game midway through the second when he got the puck at the face-off circle and ripped a shot past Johnson’s glove.
“They were making smart plays and getting the puck deep and using the forecheck,” Asham said. “We weren’t playing strong at our blues and we had a lot of giveaways and we weren’t managing the puck great and it cost us a point.”
Pouliot’s linemates David Desharnais and Mathieu Darche drew assists on the goal. The line is starting to click since Desharnais was recalled from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs last week.
“I think it went great, I’m trying to do my thing which is to work hard and go to the net so it was good,” Desharnais said.
The Canadiens had extended five-on-three in the third after Alex Goligoski took a hooking penalty and Johnson and Paul Martin took penalties for delay of game.
Montreal managed just one shot on goal during the advantage. The Canadiens were 0-for-5 on the power play in the game.
“I think they did a good job taking away our two shooters, in those situations you have to move the puck down low and have the net presence to change your options,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. “James (Wisniewski) was maybe a little tight and had a couple shots but since they know his weapon they did a good job blocking his shots.”
Notes: Pittsburgh F Matt Cooke didn’t play for personal reasons…The Canadiens announced that D Josh Gorges will require knee surgery and will miss the remainder of the season…Montreal D Roman Hamrlik was out with an undisclosed injury while F Lars Eller was a healthy scratch for a second straight game.