PITTSBURGH (AP) — Defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski each had a goal and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins shredded Montreal's penalty-killing unit that Washington never solved in the opening round, beating the Canadiens 6-3 Friday night in the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Sidney Crosby set up two goals, and Jordan Staal and Sergei Gonchar also scored as the Penguins' improved power play went 4 for 4. That is three more goals than the Capitals scored with the man advantage during Montreal's stunning first-round upset, when the Canadiens killed 32 of 33 Capitals power plays.
Bill Guerin added an empty-net goal and had an assist as the Penguins won Game 1 for only the second time in five playoff series.
The Stanley Cup champion Penguins, winners of eight of 10 series since 2007, are in position to take a 2-0 lead in Game 2 on Sunday at home.
The Canadiens repeatedly turned aside rush after Capitals rush while becoming the first No. 8-seeded team to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to beat a top-seeded team, but the Penguins employed a much-different strategy. They screened goalie Jaroslav Halak in front and, rather than carrying the puck through traffic and into Montreal's collapsing defense, they instructed their undefended point men to keep pumping one-timers at the net.
The Penguins' first three goals — by Gonchar and Staal in the first period and Letang early in the second — all came from center point and couldn't be stopped by Halak, who turned aside 131 of the Capitals' final 134 shots in the first round. He let in five goals on 20 shots.
Halak was pulled early in the third for Carey Price, several minutes after Goligoski made it 5-2 by scoring off Crosby's setup.
The Canadiens, playing two days after finishing off one of the biggest first-round upsets in NHL history, didn't look to be off their game or fatigued despite the quick turnaround. They held Pittsburgh to 16 shots in the first two periods and 24 overall and kept Crosby and Evgeni Malkin from scoring, something Ottawa rarely did. Crosby had five goals, and Malkin added four in the Penguins' six-game, opening-round series win over the Senators.
The rested and patient Penguins simply looked better — and, unlike the Capitals, better prepared. Playing for the first time in six days, the Penguins didn't remain stationary on offense and throw puck after puck at Halak the way the increasingly frustrated Capitals did.
Brian Gionta had a goal and an assist, but the Canadiens never led after P.K. Subban scored unassisted on a shot from the right point with 4:30 gone. Gonchar tied it about four minutes later after Gionta's tripping penalty. Staal put the Penguins ahead to stay by cutting across the middle and beating Halak with a wrist shot at 13:27 of the first.
Staal, who has never missed a game to injury in his four NHL seasons, hurt his right leg after being undercut by Subban behind the net near the midpoint of the second period and didn't return.
The Canadiens played the final 2½ periods without defenseman Andrei Markov, who sustained an unspecified lower body injury while being upended by Penguins forward Matt Cooke while trying to control the puck in a corner.
Markov's injury inadvertently set up the Penguins' go-ahead goal. As Markov was being attended to by trainers, two Canadiens players drew roughing penalties — only one Penguins player did — and Staal scored near the end of that power play.
Crosby stayed off for a few shifts after sustaining a facial injury in the second, but he returned later in the period.
Mike Cammalleri scored his sixth for Montreal, briefly cutting it to 3-2 in the second period, but Craig Adams answered late in the period to restore Pittsburgh's two-goal advantage. Adams has two goals in seven playoff games after going without a goal all season.
NOTES: Pittsburgh has won four of five against Montreal this season. ... Crosby has 16 points in seven postseason games. ... Montreal outshot Pittsburgh 31-24, but Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves. In the first round, Washington outshot Montreal 292-194.