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Penguins edge Canadiens in shootout, extend win streak to 5

| Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012

If this night was proof, there's no more need to question Dustin Jeffrey's health.

Or Kris Letang's, either.

Jeffrey scored his first two goals since major knee surgery, and Letang was back playing at top form in Friday night's 5-4 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center.

But again, it was late-game magic by Evgeni Malkin that sealed the come-from-behind victory. A one-timer by Malkin from the right-wing boards with 2:43 left tied the game, and then he scored the only shootout goal with a quick wrist shot past Montreal's Peter Budaj.

The third-period goal was Malkin's sixth in the past four games. Overall, it was his eighth goal in the last six games.

The win extended the Penguins' streak to five games and leaves them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Philadelphia.

"Tonight wasn't the prettiest game for us, but we found a way to win," Pascal Dupuis said. "... This is a big win for us."

In the shootout, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped David Desharnais, Andrei Kostitsyn and Scott Gomez. Letang and James Neal shot and missed.

For Letang, this was just his second game in months. It was a Nov. 26 hit by the Canadiens' Max Pacioretty that left Letang concussed, forcing the defenseman to miss the next 21 games. Letang rejoined the lineup Thursday in New York but played even better yesterday.

Letang scored a first-period goal with a quick backhand shot and likely prevented another, when he spectacularly chased down Montreal's Thomas Plekanec, who was breaking 1-on-1 against Fleury.

"I thought Nealer was going to get him," Letang said. "I was just getting there in case of a rebound. When I saw (Plekanec) kind of had a lane, I just dove to the puck. I got lucky and got it."

After stopping Plekanec, Letang slid hard into the boards but showed no effects. It was a comforting sight for a team dealing with injuries.

Jeffrey has played just 12 games since surgery last March to repair a torn ACL. He scored a short-handed goal late in the second and added a blistering goal early in the third.

"I'm really happy with the way my knee has responded since I came back the second time," said Jeffrey, who rushed back in October for six games but then sat again until making a January comeback. "I feel like I don't have any lingering effects from it."

Said coach Dan Bylsma: "Dustin had a tough year, coming back without very much hockey and very much practice. He's played extremely well. ... Tonight he came up real big for us."

Fleury extended two of his streaks, including his string of five straight wins.

Playing in his 20th consecutive game, the Penguins goalie allowed two early goals but stood solid in overtime. But it was a somewhat surprising start for Fleury.

Rather than use backup goalie Brent Johnson against one of the conference's weaker teams, Fleury started again, just 24 hours after beating the Rangers in New York.

But Johnson has struggled. The 34-year-old was pulled from his past two starts Dec. 16 and Jan. 10, and hasn't won a game since Dec. 3.

Against Fleury, the Canadiens scored on two of their first three shots, but Fleury had little chance on either.

Montreal's first goal came just 34 seconds in, when the puck ricocheted off Deryk Engelland's skate in front of the net and directly to Montreal's Lars Eller, who scored into an open net to lead 1-0.

After Letang tied it, the Canadiens scored again. Andrei Kostitsyn bounced shot off Fleury, and Erik Cole buried the rebound 5:41 into the first.

A power-play goal by Kostitsyn gave Montreal a 3-1 lead early in the second. His shot from point-blank range snuck over Fleury's left shoulder. The Canadiens had needed just seven shots to score three goals.

For the sixth straight game, the Pens had a first-period fight. Chris Kunitz fought Montreal's Pacioretty just 2:53 into the game. Pacioretty's hit Nov. 26 gave Letang a concussion that kept the defenseman out for 21 games.

Scoring breakdown

First period

• Canadiens, 1-0 (0:34): A shot from the right point bounced off D Deryk Engelland's skate and went directly to Canadiens C Lars Eller, who scored into an empty net.

• Penguins, 1-1 (4:02): D Kris Letang skated deep into Montreal territory, took advantage of RW Pascal Dupuis' interference of a defender, then fired a slick backhand shot that hit a stick and managed to sneak through G Peter Budaj.

• Canadiens, 2-1 (5:41): D Brooks Orpik fired an outlet pass into the skates of D Zbynek Michalek, which resulted in a turnover. G Marc-Andre Fleury stopped LW Andrei Kostitsyn's shot, but LW Eric Cole was there to score on the rebound.

Second period

• Canadiens, 3-1 (1:09): Kostitsyn received a pass from D Tomas Kaberle in the slot and fired a shot to the glove side that handcuffed Fleury.

• Penguins, 3-2 (5:32): D Zbynek Michalek fired a shot from the right point that nicked D PK Subban's stick and went directly to C Dustin Jeffrey, who tapped in his first goal of the season.

• Canadiens, 4-2 (10:34): A poor line change led to a two-on-one for Montreal. Cole slipped a pass through Orpik to LW Max Pacioretty, who beat Fleury with a high shot.

Third period

• Penguins, 4-3 (3:32): Jeffrey picked up a loose pick after the Penguins' forecheck created a turnover and whipped a wrist shot past Budaj's glove.

• Penguins, 4-4 (17:17): C Evgeni Malkin fired a one-timer from the right wing boards that beat Budaj to the stick side.

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