PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin scored in his fifth straight game and added the lone goal in the shootout to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
Pittsburgh won its fifth straight, with Malkin capping a two-goal third-period rally with his 25th of the season with 2:43 left in regulation. The NHL scoring leader then beat Peter Budaj in the shootout.
Dustin Jeffrey scored twice and added an assist for Pittsburgh, and Kris Letang had a goal and an assist. Marc-Andre Fleury overcame a shaky start to finish with 25 saves.
Andrei Kostitsyn and Erik Cole each had a goal and an assist for the Canadiens. Lars Eller and Max Pacioretty also scored, and Budaj made 34 saves.
Montreal appeared ready to notch its second impressive victory in a week, taking a 4-2 lead into the third period against a Pittsburgh team playing its third game in four days.
Then the Canadiens decided to play it safe. Not the best idea considering how well Malkin is playing at the moment.
The Penguins kept pushing. Jeffery scored his second goal of the game and the season 3:32 into the third to pull Pittsburgh to 4-3. Budaj dug in, but the Penguins were relentless, peppering the backup netminder.
Malkin finally broke through, tying it with a sizzling slap shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. The typically reserved Russian banged on the glass after the puck sailed high over Budaj's stick and into the net.
Fleury kept the rally going by making a couple of nice stops in overtime and had no problems in the shootout. Neither did Malkin, who slipped the puck past Budaj in the second round. It was enough to keep Pittsburgh rolling following a six-game losing streak that threatened to derail the season.
A well-timed players only meeting and a rare appearance on a road trip by injured star Sidney Crosby sparked a quick turnaround. Pittsburgh recovered behind Malkin, who has 10 goals in his last eight games.
The reeling Canadiens have struggled to find traction under coach Randy Cunneyworth, winning just four times in his first 10 games on the bench after taking over for Jacques Martin last month. Yet they looked remarkably sharp — and opportunistic — against the Penguins.
Montreal needed just 34 seconds to take the lead on a bit of a fluky goal by Eller, who put his stick on the ice to control a deflection off Pittsburgh defensemen Deryk Engelland's skate. Eller didn't really shoot the puck, it just kind of caromed off his stick with so much velocity it slid past the surprised Fleury.
Letang drew Pittsburgh even less than 4 minutes later, skating from the point deep into the zone and stuffing it past Budaj for his first goal since Nov. 26, when he scored in overtime. A day later, Letang learned he sustained a concussion following a collision with Pacioretty, leading to nearly two months on the injured reserve.
The defenseman returned Thursday night in a win over the New York Rangers and looked fresh on the second half of a back-to-back.
The same couldn't be said of his teammates, at least through the first two periods.
Pittsburgh played its best game against a quality team all season in dropping the Rangers, leading all the way for a road win that proved their recent surge wasn't simply a product of a soft spot in the schedule.
The Penguins didn't have the same fire against the cellar-dwelling Canadiens, who built a pair of two-goal leads, with the league's worst power-play unit even chipping in a rare goal courtesy of a wrist shot from the slot by Kostitsyn.
When Pacioretty beat Fleury midway through the second to put Montreal up 4-2, it looked as if the Canadiens were on their way.
They weren't, getting outshot 14-7 in the third period to let another lead slip away.
NOTES: Jeffrey's goals were his first since scoring a pair against Boston last March. ... Pittsburgh has outshot the opposition in 13 straight games. ... Defensemen Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber were scratched by Montreal. ... Defenseman Ben Lovejoy and forwards Jason Williams and Arron Asham were scratched by the Penguins.