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Thanks in part to solid three point efforts by both Evgeni Malkin (1G - 2A) and Ryan Whitney (1G - 2A), the Pittsburgh Penguins ended the Montreal Canadiens' four-game win streak with a 5-4 win in front of the deafening crowds of Montreal's Bell Centre.
The Penguins started off the scoring six-minutes into the first on a Ryan Whitney shot from the point. Before the first period ended, Jarkko Ruutu lit the lamp for his second of the season.
Heading into the second Montreal flew out of the gate and brought the Penguins' lead within one. Yet Pittsburgh, heading into the game ranked third in the league on the power play, notched another from a Malone jab-in amidst traffic in front of the Montreal net.
Montreal, the NHL's number one power play, was quick to respond. Christopher Higgins found the twine with the man advantage to once again trim the Penguins' lead to one.
The third period faceoff dropped with the score showing 3-2 in favor of the Penguins. Less than 30 seconds later that would change, as Montreal's Michael Ryder tied it up.
Tyler Kennedy was sent to the box for hooking, once again putting the puck in the possession of Montreal's deadly power play. They wasted no time, with Roman Hamrlik notching the Habs ahead 4-3.
The score remained 4-3 up until the midway mark of the third period, when the NHL's leading scoring Evgeni Malkin rushed towards Montreal's netminder Christobel Huet on a breakaway. Shot - light - goal. Tied up again.
15 seconds into the Penguins power play, coming from an Alexei Kovalev interference call, Sergei Gonchar teed up from the point to put the Penguins ahead 5-4.
From thereon in, Dany Sabourin played solid in net and secured the win for the Penguins despite Montreal's rabid attacks on net. Some may even say, with the trade deadline and Marc-Andre Fleury's return looming, this could have in fact been Sabourin's last start as a Penguin.
Last night's victory not only extended the Penguins' win streak to three, but also tied them with the Devils yet again for first in the Atlantic. Additionally, the win moved the Pens into a three-way 73 point tie with Montreal and New Jersey for second place in the conference.
Ottawa lost in a shootout to Columbus, awarding them the "thanks for playing" point nonetheless to maintain sole possession of first place in the east with 74 points.
Both power play units converted twice on the night. Pittsburgh was given four chances to do so, but thanks to a more disciplined game, they allowed Montreal only three. In any case, Montreal's 2-3 still proved deadly and leaves one to wonder what even one more power play could've done to the game.
The Eastern Conference is still wide open grounds for any team within the first ten seeds, and the trade deadline is only four days away.