The star-laden Pittsburgh Penguins realize they haven’t played their best hockey through the first 15 games of the season. They hope a rare comeback against the NHL’s top team will get their offense going.
Sidney Crosby and David Perron scored in the shootout to help the Penguins defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Wednesday night for their first victory when trailing after two periods since Jan. 5, 2014, against Winnipeg.
"Our second period was not very good, but we had a great third period," forward Patric Hornqvist said. "We’ll take the two points."
That’s been the trend so far for the Penguins, who started 3-4 before winning seven of their last eight.
But it hasn’t been pretty for a club loaded with offensive talent. Pittsburgh was ranked 26th in the league in goals per game, and five of the team’s past seven victories have been by one goal in low-scoring games.
"We’re still winning," Hornqvist said.
Perron, the first Pittsburgh shooter, connected on his backhand before Crosby clinched it. The two-time MVP made a series of quick dekes before putting a backhand shot over Mike Condon’s glove.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais in the shootout after Pittsburgh rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the third period. Fleury, who made 32 saves, left briefly in the first after taking an inadvertent stick to the mask from Penguins teammate Ben Lovejoy.
Hornqvist’s third goal of the season tied it in the third. Olli Maatta was credited for his second goal when a shot glanced off him and into the net.
Pascal Dupuis scored his second of the season 13 seconds into the game, providing an immediate boost in his return to the Pittsburgh lineup following a health scare during the team’s recent road trip.
Brendan Gallagher scored his seventh goal for Montreal and Brian Flynn his second, both in the second period. Andrei Markov had his second of the season and the Canadiens’ eighth power-play goal in seven games.
Condon, who hasn’t lost in regulation this season, made 31 saves.
"At one point, the shots were 30-15 and we were taking it to them," Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. "We have to realize that everybody’s gunning for us and we’re going to have to play a full 60 minutes to beat any team."
After managing only one shot in the second period, Pittsburgh pressed for the tying goal in the third.
Hornqvist got it with 6:25 to play in regulation on a shot that deflected off a stick and into the top right corner. Pittsburgh went on the power play later in the period and a 4-on-3 in overtime, but came up empty both times.
The league-leading Canadiens played their sixth game without star goalie Carey Price, the reigning NHL MVP.
Price is expected to be out another week with a lower-body injury, but the Canadiens don’t believe it’s a long-term problem after he received a second opinion this week.
The Canadiens, who won 13 of their first 16 games for the first time in franchise history, have won four of their last six without Price.
"(Condon) played great and gave us a chance," captain Max Pacioretty said. "He had another outstanding game and in the next game we have to play a little better in front of him."
The Penguins, playing their first home game in almost two weeks, won three of four during a road trip that included a swing through Western Canada. Pittsburgh won a season-high six straight games and nine of its previous 10 before a three-goal loss Saturday at Calgary.
Dupuis, who missed most of the 2014-15 season dealing with career-threatening blood clots, sat out games in Edmonton and Calgary. He was sent to the hospital as a precaution, ensuring symptoms weren’t related to his blood clot history, but tests came back negative.
Dupuis opened the scoring 13 seconds into the game as Crosby, from the far corner, sent a sharp pass across the crease to Dupuis, who one-touched a shot behind Condon.
"(Montreal) is the best team in the league, so it’s definitely good to get a big two points against a team that plays really well defensively and shuts down the opposition when they have the lead," he said.
Notes:Tomas Plekanec tied Jean-Claude Tremblay for 25th on the Canadiens’ career assists list. … Pittsburgh, which plays seven of its next nine at home, will host Columbus on Friday. Montreal begins a three-game homestand Saturday against Colorado. … The Canadiens scratched forward Alexander Semin, D Jarred Tinordi and D Greg Pateryn. … LW Sergei Plotnikov and D Adam Clendening sat out for Pittsburgh.