Penguins rebound with road win over Canadiens
MONTREAL — The Penguins were in danger of wrapping a two-game road trip in demoralizing fashion when Patric Hornqvist did a Patric Hornqvist kind of thing.
Hornqvist scored his second goal of the game on a net-front deflection with less than eight minutes to go to lead the Penguins to a 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
The Penguins have won five of their last seven, bouncing back from an overtime loss to the New York Rangers the night before.
Hornqvist parked himself in the slot and, as he was being cross-checked to the ice by defenseman Noah Juulsen, used a between-the-legs tip to send a Carl Hagelin shot past former Penguins goalie Antti Niemi and break a 3-3 tie.
Evgeni Malkin scored his 40th goal of the season on the power play to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead in the middle of the second period.
Malkin took a pass from Kris Letang in the right faceoff circle and teed up a one-timer that Niemi might have heard but definitely didn't see.
Malkin became the fifth Penguins player to record at least three 40-goal seasons, joining Mario Lemieux (10), Jaromir Jagr (5), Kevin Stevens (4) and Jean Pronovost (4).
The lead lasted only a couple of minutes. Letang turned a puck over in the face of a Jonathan Drouin forecheck in the corner, Hagelin's attempt at a clearing attempt hit a skate and Daniel Carr hit an open Nicolas Deslauriers in the slot for a goal to make it 3-3 heading into the third.
The Penguins had a chance to take a 4-3 lead about five minutes into the third period when a bad-angle Riley Sheahan shot got through Niemi, but the puck stopped on the goal line after squirting between his pads.
By a strange quirk of scheduling, Thursday night's game was the first meeting of the season between the Penguins and Canadiens. They'll square off two more times in the final 10 games of the year.
Generally speaking, that's a good break for the Penguins.
The Canadiens didn't dismantle their roster at the trade deadline as some suggested they might, selling off only center Tomas Plekanec and depth defensemen Joe Morrow and Jakub Jerabek. They have, however, lost significant pieces to injury in recent weeks.
Most notably, Max Pacioretty (knee) and Shea Weber (foot) are out long term, and goalie Carey Price is sidelined with a concussion. The Canadiens have lost 14 of their last 18 games.
The Penguins, meanwhile, weren't exactly coming in hot, having blown a 2-0 lead with a brutal third-period performance in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Rangers the night before.
In the early part of the game, the Penguins continued their trend downward.
Montreal jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes and came by those goals honestly, taking seven of the game's first 10 shots.
Artturi Lehkonen tipped in a Jeff Petry shot from the right half-wall about three minutes in. Paul Byron converted on Montreal's first power-play chance of the game about three minutes later. Five Penguins, including goalie Tristan Jarry, tried in vain to clear an airborne puck at the top of the crease before Byron cashed in.
By the midpoint of the period, however, the Penguins got their act together and scored twice in a five-minute span to forge a 2-2 tie.
On the first, Bryan Rust made a cross-crease backhand pass on a two-on-one play down low to set up Phil Kessel at the right post.
On the second, Hornqvist chased down a bouncing head-man pass, poked it past Petry and tried to hit Hagelin at the left post for a tap-in. The puck deflected in off Petry to tie the score with less than six minutes left in the first.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.