Montreal had its season-high three-game win streak snapped Thursday with a 4-1 loss to visiting Tampa Bay.
Pierre Dagenais scored the lone goal for the Canadiens, who managed just two shots in the third period and were outshot 27-15 overall.
Montreal had earned points in six consecutive games (4-0-1-1) before Thursday.
“It’s frustrating because we have a pretty good thing going,” Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray said. “This is a team we’re trying to pull away from, but they earned it. They worked harder than us, they won the battles and they got the win.”
Goaltender Jose Theodore admittedly wasn’t at his best, as he allowed more than one goal in regulation for the first time in eight games.
“It was one of those nights where the puck wasn’t really sticking to me,” he said. “It was difficult for everybody, me included.”
Theodore figures to be back in net Saturday, looking to continue his success against the Penguins.
Theodore has stopped 48 of 50 shots in two wins over Pittsburgh this season, and is 10-3-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average in 14 career starts against the Penguins.
One night after a surprising 4-2 victory at New Jersey, Pittsburgh was a 3-1 loser at Boston on Thursday.
It was the fifth loss in six games for the Penguins, outscored 23-9 during that stretch.
Jean-Sebastien Aubin, making his second straight start in net, stopped 24 of 26 shots. Aubin wasn’t pleased with his performance, particularly with allowing Patrice Bergeron’s goal with 2:52 left in regulation.
“I feel like I should have stopped that one,” Aubin said. “I felt like I let my teammates down because they played so well.”
Generating offense figured to be a huge problem for the inexperienced Penguins, but they hoped to get some production from right wing Aleksey Morozov, who scored 20 goals in 2001-02. Morozov, however, has no points in 10 games and no goals in his last 23 contests.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 8): Canadiens - 47 points, 4th place, 10 PB, Northeast Division. Penguins - 28 points, 5th place, 27 PB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canadiens - Souray and Richard Zednik, 13 goals; Mike Ribeiro, 21 assists and 29 points; Darren Langdon, 82 PIM. Penguins - Rico Fata, 11 goals; Dick Tarnstrom, 14 assists and 21 points; Kelly Buchberger, 78 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 8): Canadiens - Power play: 17.9 percent (29 for 162), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (135 for 162), 21st. Penguins - Power play: 12.4 percent (24 for 193), 27th. Penalty killing: 79.6 percent (144 for 181), 28th.
SEASON SERIES: Canadiens, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 22; Canadiens, 4-1. At Montreal, Saku Koivu and Souray had a goal and an assist apiece, and Theodore made 16 saves to lead Montreal.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canadiens - 8-8-2-2 on the road; Penguins - 7-10-3-0 at home.