Gonchar Scores 600th Point as Pens Beat Habs 5-4

The Pittsburgh Penguins  traveled to Montreal on Thursday night and picked up their 3rd straight win by beating the Canadiens 5-4, despite falling behind 4-3 early in the 3rd period.  Sergei Gonchar scored the game winning goal midway through the 3rd to pick up his 50th point of the season, and 600th of his career.  Evgeni Malkin picked up 3-more points (1G, 2A) to extend his lead to 4-points over Alexander Ovechkin in the Art Ross scoring title race.  Malkin has surged to the top by scoring 41-points in his last 21-games.  He now has 82-points (35G, 45A) on the season.  The win puts the Penguins back in a tie with New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead, and just one point behind the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators who lost in a shootout on Thursday. 

In the 1st period, the Penguins came out strong and outshot the Canadiens 15-8.  In the barrage, the Penguins managed to beat Cristobal Huet twice.  The first goal came at 6:46 as Ryan Whitney picked up his 12th of the year from Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora.  The 2nd goal came late in the period as Jarkko Ruutu gathered up a Canadiens’ turnover and beat Huet at 18:47 to give the Penguins a 2-goal lead.  The Penguins were 0-for-1 on the powerplay and committed no penalties of their own. 

In the 2nd, the Canadiens got back in the game on an early goal by Saku Koivu at 3:27.  Sergei Kostitsyn and Ryan O’Byrne were credited with the assists.  At 6:59, Ryan Malone restored the 2-goal lead by picking up his 20th of the year, a power play goal.  Ryan Whitney and Petr Sykora contributed with assists.  Late in the 2nd, the Canadiens drew within one again as Christopher Higgins tipped in a pass from Alex Kovalev while Jarkko Ruutu sat for hooking.  Andrei Markov was credited with the other assist.  The Penguins outshot the Canadiens 8-7 in the 2nd, and were 1-for-1 on the man advantage but gave up a goal on a lone penalty kill. 

In the 3rd, it looked like the Canadiens were going to build off from their recent come from behind victory as they quickly put up 2-goals to take the lead from the Penguins.  The Canadiens tied up the game just 21-seconds into the period when Michael Ryder put a wrist shot past Dany Sabourin.  Mark Streit and Josh Gorges had the assists for Montreal.  Then at 3:25 while Tyler Kennedy sat for a hooking call, Roman Hamrlik scored his 4th of the season to put the Canadiens ahead.   Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev were credited with assists on the go-ahead goal.  However, after serving a high-sticking penalty, Evgeni Malkin emerged from the penalty box and loitered in the neutral zone where he took a long up-ice pass from Ryan Malone and steamed in on Huet to beat him 5-hole and restore the tie.  The goal was Malkin’s 35th of the season.  At 10:58, just 36-seconds after the Malkin goal, Sergei Gonchar lit the lamp with a power play goal, his 50th point of the season and 600th of his career.  The play was set up by Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Whitney.  It would prove to be the game-winning goal as the Canadiens were unable to get another one past Sabourin.  The Penguins finished the 3rd outshooting the Canadiens 7-6, and were 1-for-2 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.

Evgeni Malkin and Ryan Whitney each picked up 3-points (1G, 2A each).  Ryan Malone had 2-points (1G, 1A) and Petr Sykora had 2-points (2A).  The Penguins improved their record to 35-21-5 for 75-points.  The only team in the Eastern Conference with more points is the Ottawa Senators who have 76-points.  Two Western Conference teams have more points than the Penguins…..the Dallas Stars with 79-points and the Detroit Red Wings with 89-points.  The Penguins are now 7-2-1 in February, picking up 15 of 20 possible points on the month.

The Penguins head back to Mellon arena for two weekend matinees.  They will host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday at 3PM for a chance to pull ahead of them in the standings, and possibly into the Conference lead.  Then on Sunday at 3PM, they will host the San Jose Sharks.  After that, they will head to the Island on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday to close out the month of February. 


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