Penguins stop Canadiens, close in on No. 1 seed

PITTSBURGH -- Going into Wednesday's game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Montreal Canadiens still had a mathematical chance of catching Pittsburgh for the first seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

After the dust had settled, any hopes of the Canadiens grabbing the Eastern Conference's top spot were quelled.

Jarome Iginla scored for his 1,100th career point, while Brandon Sutter and Brenden Morrow each scored a pair as the Penguins powered past the Canadiens 6-4.

"It's just a confident group right now," said Morrow.

It was Pittsburgh's fifth consecutive victory and Montreal's third straight defeat.

"The last three games we haven't gotten off to the best starts, they beat us right off the bat and got the ball rolling," said Montreal goaltender Carey Price.

The Penguins opened the scoring when Sutter skated in from center ice and unleashed what appeared to be a rather ordinary wrist shot from the left wing circle that beat Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj at 7:24 of the first period. "I had speed coming in and just tried to get a shot through," said Sutter.

Just over two minutes later the Penguins went up 2-0 when Morrow fired a laser of a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot that beat Budaj. It was his 10th goal of the season.

The Penguins scored their third goal of the first period on the power play when Iginla grabbed a Chris Kunitz cross-crease pass, dug it out from his skates and wristed it just under the cross bar for his 11th goal of the season. It was also Iginla's 1,100th NHL point, making him just the 58th player in NHL history to reach that plateau.

The Canadiens began the second period with Price between the pipes, but the second frame began much the way the first one ended, with a Penguins goal. "We tried to change the momentum and it didn't work," said Montreal coach Michel Therrien.

It was Morrow striking again, pushing a Beau Bennett pass past a sprawled Price for his second goal of the game and fourth in the past two contests.

The Canadiens cracked the scoreboard for the first time at 7:42 of the second period when Brandon Prust threw a sneaky backhand pass from behind the Pittsburgh net that Montreal captain Brian Gionta put past Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, cutting the Penguins' lead to 4-1.

Fleury and many of the fans did not appear to realize that the puck had actually entered the net.

Any momentum gained by the goal was quickly dashed, however, as the Penguins struck again on the power play when Sutter notched his second goal of the game, banking a rebound in off the right post at 10:30 of the second.

The Canadiens got back to within three when Alex Galchenyuk grabbed a bouncing puck from in tight and roofed it just under the crossbar to Fleury's stick side.

The Canadiens opened the scoring in the third at 4:09 when Gabriel Dumont beat Fleury for his first goal of the season to cut the Penguins' lead to 5-3.

However, Pittsburgh once again suppressed any Montreal momentum by cashing in just over a minute later when Douglas Murray wristed a shot in from the point for his first goal of the season and first as a Penguin. "It was great to see (Murray) get the first goal," said Iginla.

The Canadiens added a late marker from Andrei Markov with just 10 seconds remaining, but the contest had long since been decided.

Fleury made 31 saves in the victory, while Budaj was the losing goalie making just six saves.

NOTES: In a pre-game ceremony the Penguins inducted Mark Recchi as a member of their all-time team. ... Canadiens goaltender Price is one win away from tying Michel Larocque for seventh place for most wins in franchise history. ... Wednesday's game marked the 276th consecutive sellout for the Penguins. ... The Canadiens have sold out 355 consecutive games. ... Scratches for the Penguins were centers Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), Evgeni Malkin (upper body) and Dustin Jeffrey, winger James Neal (concussion), defensemen Paul Martin (hand), Robert Bortuzzo and Deryk Engelland, and goaltender Eric Hartzell. Scratches for the Canadiens were center Ryan White, wingers Mike Blunden and Michael Ryder, and defensemen Tomas Kaberle, Nathan Beaulieu and Alex Emelin (knee). ... The Penguins' next contest is Friday in Boston. The Canadiens are next in action on Thursday when they host Tampa Bay.