Game 62: Comeback vs. Penguins wasn’t to be

Canadiens defenceman Roman Hamrlik rides Penguins’ Tyler Kennedy into the boards.
Dave Sandford, NHLI via Getty Images

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PAT HICKEY
The Gazette

The Canadiens found out how the other half lives as they ran out of miracles Thursday night. Montreal came back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but Evgeni Malkin took over from there to lead the visitors to a 5-4 win.

Malkin, who has picked up his game since superstar teammate Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a high ankle sprain, scored his 35th goal on a breakaway to tie the game at 4-4 at 10:22 of the third period and then assisted on Sergei Gonchar’s power-play goal at 10:58 for the game-winner. He had a goal and two assists and continues to lead the NHL in scoring with 82 points.

The Canadiens’ power play, which has ranked among the best in the National Hockey League all season, played a major role in the Canadiens’ shortlived comeback as it scored the first two times they had a man advantage.

And the Canadiens also received another key goal from Michael Ryder, who has suddenly come to life while trade rumours swirl around him.

Ryder tied the game at 3-3 when he banked a shot off goaltender Dany Sabourin’s skate from the low faceoff circle at the 21-second mark of the third period.

It was the 12th goal of the season for Ryder, but more important, he has scored four of those goals in the last three games. His goal was sandwiched between power-play goals by Christopher Higgins at 18:07 of the second period and by Roman Hamrlik at 3:25 of the third period.

The loss meant the Canadiens were unable to keep pace with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference standings, while the Penguins moved into a tie with Montreal and New Jersey for the second-best record in the East with 75 points each.

It might have been an emotional letdown after the historic win over the Rangers Tuesday, but it was a familiar story as the Canadiens came out flat.

The Penguins outshot the Canadiens 15-8 in the opening period and grabbed a 2-0 lead. Ryan Whitney opened the scoring with a shot from the point at 6:46. Huet had to deal with a deflection and a fair bit of traffic, including Evgeni Malkin, who picked up the first assist on the goal.

Jarkko Ruutu, who is known more as a pest than a scorer, made it 2-0 at 18:47. Ruutu’s second goal of the season was a gift as Andrei Markov didn’t get as much was he wanted on a clearing pass. The result was that Ruutu found himself alone in front of the net. He caught Huet moving from one side to the other and put the puck between the goalie’s skates.

The Canadiens dodged a bullet a few minutes earlier. Jordan Staal appeared to have a clear path to the net, but he was brought down from behind by Ryan O’Byrne. Referee Bill McCreary could easily have called for a penalty, but instead gave O’Byrne two minutes for tripping and the Canadiens were able to kill the penalty.

The Canadiens’ homestand continues Saturday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets are at the Bell Centre. The game will be preceded by ceremonies to retire general manager Bob Gainey’s No. 23. The festivities start at 6 p.m. and the opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

THREE STARS 1. Evgeni Malkin 2. Alex Kovalev 3. Ryan Malone

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