Pens overcome leaky defense to defeat Habs
MONTREAL — It might be time for Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to say au revoir to his goaltending script.
It certainly is time for the Penguins to say goodbye to this road trip and their defensive deficiencies.
There is something to be said, of course, for the Penguins' vaunted offensive firepower.
Despite displaying more shoddy work in their defensive zone and blowing two leads, the Penguins eked past the Canadiens, 7-6, in an overtime thriller at Bell Centre thanks to Brandon Sutter's game-winner.
“It definitely wasn't the way we drew this one up,” Sutter said. “It may not have been pretty. But it's still a good feeling.”
The Penguins lead the NHL with 77 goals. Sidney Crosby, following his seventh three-point effort in his past 15 outings, leads the league with 34 points.
Still, there was an understanding in the Penguins' locker room that this style of hockey can't continue.
“We don't want to make a habit of winning like this,” Crosby said. “We've got to find ways to keep the puck out of our net. We can't expect to win games this way.”
The Penguins took a 4-2 lead in the second period behind two Matt Cooke goals. Sutter and Chris Kunitz also scored twice for the Penguins.
The lead quickly evaporated, however, as the road trip's defensive problems persisted. During the 1-2-0 trip, the Penguins allowed 16 goals.
Tomas Vokoun, a surprise starter over Quebec native Marc-Andre Fleury, has allowed 15 goals in his past three starts.
Fleury, who played well Thursday in a 4-1 loss to Carolina, expected to start in his home province. After all, Vokoun had struggled in his previous two starts, while Fleury was relatively well rested and has been sharp.
This was the Penguins' only regular-season game in Quebec, another reason it seemed likely that Fleury would start.
Bylsma, however, said it was decided two weeks earlier that Vokoun would play.
Fleury acknowledged that the decision stung.
“A little bit,” he said. “Friends and family were going to be here.”
A Tyler Kennedy penalty late in the second period led to Brian Gionta's first goal, which pulled the Canadiens within one.
Then, with one second remaining in the period, Montreal defenseman PK Subban scored to even the game. Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik, perhaps the Penguins' two best defensemen, were on the ice for each of the first four goals allowed.
“Vokoun made some great saves, actually,” said Sutter, acknowledging that his team's defensive work wasn't good enough.
The first two periods were merely an appetizer to a wild third.
After Montreal took a 5-4 lead, Crosby set up Kunitz to even the game, then scored his 10th goal of the season to give the Penguins a 6-5 lead.
It lasted all of 30 seconds before Gionta fired a slap shot past Vokoun.
“I don't want to ever remember being in one like this again,” Bylsma said.
Still, some of the Penguins preferred to focus on the positives.
Montreal is one of hockey's finest defensive teams, and goalie Carey Price has a solid history against the Penguins, entering with a lifetime 8-6-1 record against them. The Penguins slipped seven goals past him.
“We obviously haven't been playing very well,” right wing James Neal said. “We needed this one. This was a great test against Montreal.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
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