MONTREAL – Michel Therrien got an up-close look at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ attack—but this time from the opposing team’s bench.
He wasn’t crazy about what he saw, as Brandon Sutter finished off a goal-scoring free-for-all with a tally 52 seconds into overtime as the Penguins’ downed the Montreal Canadiens 7-6 on Saturday night.
“That kind of game is great for the fans, but it’s what gives coaches gray hair,” said Therrien. “But we managed to find a way to get a point.”
Sutter finished off a game that had four lead changes as he took a pass from Simon Despres on a rush, stepped around Max Pacioretty and beat Carey Price with a high shot to the glove side in OT.
That helped Pittsburgh end a two-game losing run and avoid being swept on a three-game road trip.
Sutter called it a big victory.
“Especially when you give up that many goals-against,” he said. “We still managed to find a way to win.
“It might have been a tough night for goaltenders, but Tomas Vokoun still made a couple of big saves that kept us in the game. That’s all you ask of your goalies.”
Matt Cooke and Chris Kunitz, each with two, and Sidney Crosby also scored for Pittsburgh (14-8-0).
It was Crosby’s first regular season goal in Montreal since his first game at the Bell Centre as a rookie in 2006.
“Nobody brought it up this morning and I was glad,” said Crosby, who got his 10th of the season and added two assists. “It was something I was aware of.
“I enjoy playing here and I think that you want to play well in a building like this. It’s got so much atmosphere and you know it’s gonna be a big game. It was nice to finally get one.”
Brian Gionta had a pair while Brandon Prust, Pacioretty, David Desharnais and P.K. Subban also scored as Montreal (13-4-4) stretched its string of games without a regulation loss to 10.
But they fell short of making a winner of Therrien in his first game against the Penguins since he was fired by Pittsburgh in 2009.
“Crazy games like that happen,” said Montreal defenceman Tomas Kaberle. “Too bad we didn’t get the two points at the end of the night.
“We talked between periods that we lost a lot of pucks in the neutral zone. They’re a fast team. They can use their chances and they certainly did. We don’t want to see games like that again. The previous games, we played good defensively and we have to get back to that.”
There was little time to rest, as the Canadiens begin a five-game road trip Sunday night in Boston. The Canadiens and Bruins are tied for the NHL Eastern Conference lead with 30 points, although Boston has three games in hand.
Montreal outshot Pittsburgh 39-26 in a wide-open game with shaky goaltending at both ends as the Penguins opted to go with Vokoun over Sorel, Que., native Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.
A fast-paced first period saw Montreal draw first blood as Plekanec was on the doorstep to put in the rebound of Kaberle’s shot from the side boards at 5:41.
The Penguins tied it on a power play at 19:07 as Sutter broke into the zone and saw his pass come back to him off Alexei Emelin’s skate to beat a fooled Price.
Brendan Gallagher’s charge to the net set up Pacioretty’s seventh goal in his last seven games 4:14 into the second frame, but the Penguins answered with three straight goals.
Crosby made a deft move behind the net to set up Kunitz at the goalpost for his 10th at 8:29 and Cooke saw a long shot sail past a screened Price only 31 seconds later.
Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges tipped a puck onto the onrushing Cooke’s stick for a goal from the high slot at 13:05.
But Montreal answered as Gionta put his stick between his legs to deflect Francis Bouillon’s shot at 17:37. An ill-advised icing set up a face-off in the Penguins zone with seven seconds left in the period, and it was Gallagher again doing the work to set up Subban at the side of the net to tie it with less than a second on the clock.
Desharnais put in Emelin’s rebound 5:25 into the third frame, but Kunitz one-timed a Crosby pass for his second of the game at 8:33 and Crosby put the Penguins ahead as he roofed a loose puck at 10:24.
“It’s not a game you like to play,” said Penguins defenceman Kris Letang, who had four assists to give him 19 points in as many games this season. “It’s entertaining for the fans, but for a goalie it sucks.
“But sometimes these things happen and if you don’t play well defensively you have to bring something else, some energy.”
Only 30 seconds later, Vokoun waved at Gionta’s long shot to tie it at 6-6.
Notes: Crosby played his first game at the Bell Centre since Nov. 26, 2011. . . Brandon Prust played his 300th career game. . . Montreal called up centre Gabriel Dumont from AHL Hamilton late Friday. He was a healthy scratch along with Yannick Weber. . . Paul Martin, one of Pittsburgh’s top defencemen, sat out with a lower body injury, while Zach Boychuk and Robert Bortuzzo were scratched.