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Big second period propels Pens past Habs

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins used three, second-period goals to dispose of the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 at Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night. Right winger Jussi Jokinen led the way with two goals, while center Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist and was a plus-3.

"Jussi, the one thing he's brought to our team is just the intelligence with which he plays the game," said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

All six Pittsburgh defenseman also chipped in with at least one assist.

"Our depth is a big part of our team ... nice to see all the D chip in and we'll continue to use them and have them contribute," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins (35-13-2) bounced back from a 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday that snapped their 13-game home unbeaten streak. The Canadiens (27-18-5) allowed five goals in a second consecutive loss, as they fell 5-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

The Penguins struck first at 8:48 of the first period. Malkin broke through a crowd of stationary Canadiens, taking the puck along the right boards down to the bottom of the faceoff circle. He then swept a backhand pass to Jokinen, who simply pushed the puck into a yawning net for his 14th tally of the season.

Pittsburgh doubled the lead when it put the NHL's top power play to work. Defenseman Matt Niskanen unloaded a shot from the blue line that was tipped in by left winger Taylor Pyatt, who had his 6-foot-4 frame parked in front of the net, screening Montreal goaltender Carey Price.

The Canadiens scored their lone goal of the night 17:40 into the first when right winger Rene Bourque snuck in behind an unsuspecting Niskanen and tipped in a pass from center Daniel Briere.

Any optimism Montreal gained with the late goal in the first was quelled in the second, as the Penguins scored three times in the frame to take a four-goal lead.

First, Jokinen struck again at 5:46. Fellow Finnish countryman defenseman Olli Maatta sent a quick cross-ice pass to Jokinen, who dropped to one knee and one-timed the puck in from the right-wing faceoff dot.

"I'm playing with lots of confidence right now," said Jokinen who now has 13 points in his last 11 games.

The Penguins pushed their advantage to 4-1 at 11:43 via another power-play goal when Crosby, positioned near the left post, masterfully deflected a point shot from defenseman Kris Letang. The goal, Crosby's 26th of the season, gave him at least one point in 20 of his 24 appearances against the Canadiens, including at least one point in all 13 career home games vs. Montreal.

"They were hungry to play and when you're facing a team like that and give them an opportunity to put their power play on the ice, we took some bad penalties, and they're certainly going to hurt you," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.

Malkin tallied the final goal of the night when he corralled the puck at the red line and busted down the right wing, pushing a shot on net, grabbing his own rebound and then shoveling it past a down-and-out Price. Backup netminder Peter Budaj entered in relief after the goal and stopped all 10 shots he faced.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves for his league-leading 28th victory. Price suffered the loss making 16 saves in less than two periods of work.

The game took a nasty turn with 5:10 left in the third when a donnybrook broke out in front of the Pittsburgh net. The goaltenders even tried to fight, but the linesmen intercepted the two at center ice before they could engage in fisticuffs.

"I heard he's a nice guy," said Budaj of Fleury. "Nothing personal. I think there was just a scrum on the ice and there was built-up tension -- you know, we were losing 5-1, and it was a disappointing night for us. So props to him that he wanted to do it. That's good."

When the fracas ended, a total of 30 minutes in penalties eventually were handed out.

NOTES: The game marked the first half of what will be the Penguins' 10th set of 17 back-to-back games this season. The Penguins will travel to New York to take on the Islanders on Thursday. ... Montreal will complete its 10th set of 17 back-to-back games Friday at Detroit and Saturday vs. Washington. ... The Penguins lost 303 man-games to injury this season. The Canadiens lost 168 man-games to injury. ... Pittsburgh C Evgeni Malkin is three games shy of 500 for his career. ... Montreal G Carey Price is one win shy of taking sole possession of sixth place in team history, ahead of George Hainsworth. ... Scratches for the Penguins were C Zach Sill and D Robert Bortuzzo. Scratches for the Canadiens were RW George Parros, D Raphiel Diaz (illness) and D Alexei Emelin. ... The official attendance was 18,617, Pittsburgh's 311th consecutive sellout. The Canadiens have sold out 385 consecutive home games.
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