Bonino, Rust help Penguins defeat Canadiens

Bill West
| Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, 10:00 p.m.

MONTREAL — Center Nick Bonino watched the Montreal skaters converge on him with the Canadiens blue line just a few feet away late in the second period Saturday night at Bell Centre. Punishment for Bonino, the recipient of a disorienting hit earlier, appeared imminent.

The Penguins center held his line and charged ahead. Three Canadiens crowded him, with defenseman Greg Pateryn ultimately colliding into Bonino's left shoulder.

By then, though, the Canadiens had left themselves exposed. Winger Bryan Rust, off to Bonino's left, received a crafty pass, raced toward Montreal's goal and lifted a shot over the shoulder of goalie Mike Condon for what became the deciding goal.

In front of a lively crowd and against a chippy host team, the Penguins proved their resolve early and often during a 3-1 win over the Canadiens.

Listless three days earlier during a 3-1 loss in Chicago, the Penguins dictated pace and possession Saturday with a flurry of shot attempts midway through the first period and finally found the back of the net almost 10 minutes into the second with a nifty net-front move by Patric Hornqvist on the power play.

“We were playing the game the way we wanted to play it, so we said at the end of the first period, let's just not get frustrated because we didn't score,” coach Mike Sullivan said.

Eric Fehr added an empty-net goal just before time expired in the third period.

Bonino's assist, which set up the second goal of Rust's 20-game NHL career, afforded the Penguins a clean scoring chance on a night when the Canadiens allowed little for either side to look pretty. It also established some momentum for the center during his first time on a line with Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl, both of whom came up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Thursday.

“Nick made an unbelievable pass,” Rust said. “I didn't know if he knew (I was there). I was just skating and hoping. I tried talking, but I don't think I was yelling loud enough. He still found me anyway.”

Just one period before his heads-up pass to Rust, Bonino rested with his head down on the Penguins' bench as an athletic trainer tended to him.

Nine minutes into the game, Bonino slowly got back on his skates in front of Montreal's bench area after taking a shoulder to the head from Paul Byron. He moved slowly to get himself back to the Penguins' bench.

Less than a minute later, he headed down the runway toward the Penguins' locker room.

Slightly more than a minute after that, he made his way back to the Penguins' bench. He got back on the ice for a shift seconds later.

“It's not the cleanest play, but stuff happens out there,” Bonino said. “(Medical staff) checked me real quick and let me play. I don't want to go over (to the locker room), but they're smart guys, and they've got to do their due diligence.”

Byron broke into the Penguins' zone for one of the Canadiens' best scoring chances four minutes into the second period, but his shot attempt on Marc-Andre Fleury went up into the netting behind the goal.

Fleury finished with 33 saves. Only a slap shot from defenseman P.K. Subban, just moments after the Canadiens won an offensive-zone faceoff, found the back of the net.

Subban's goal negated a lead the Penguins built with savvy power-play passing, as Evgeni Malkin worked the puck from one corner to the other, where Phil Kessel quickly flicked a pass to Hornqvist on the crease.

Hornqvist received the pass on his forehand and, with Condon scrambling, moved to his backhand to bury the chance.

“We had four lines going really well tonight,” Bonino said. “We got them on the run a little bit.”

Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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