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Montreal at Pittsburgh

Gonchar's first goal gives Bylsma first win as Penguins coach

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma promised the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to be the Penguins again, with an aggressive style of play, plenty of speed and an up-and-down game that played to their strengths.

He didn't promise it exactly this way, but a team that badly needs every victory was eager to grab one despite blowing three leads.

Sergei Gonchar, playing only his third game of the season, scored on a slap shot after Pittsburgh quickly squandered a two-goal lead in the third period and the Penguins beat slumping Montreal 5-4 Thursday for Bylsma's first NHL coaching victory.

"Our guys were energized, focused and ready to go," Bylsma said. "I think they had a real clear understanding of what was at stake and the way we wanted to play. While it wasn't perfect, I think they sent a message loud and clear."

The Penguins had lost three of four before Ruslan Fedotenko fed Gonchar in the high slot, then went down low to screen goalie Carey Price in front to create the fifth goal in the first 7:18 of the third period. Evgeni Malkin and Max Talbot scored in the period's opening three minutes for Pittsburgh, but Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec scored less than four minutes apart to tie it at 4.

"We were playing aggressive and took advantage of some good chances. It was a pretty high tempo, and that's the way we want to play," said Sidney Crosby, whose quick pass across the slot set up Malkin's 26th goal. "We were reacting out there pretty well, but at the same time we still have a few kinks to work out."

Plekanec scored his 13th and 14 goals and added an assist and Kostitsyn had two assists to go with his 22nd goal, but the Canadiens -- who have fallen from third in the Eastern Conference to sixth in a month -- lost their second in two nights and 12th in 15 games.

"We need to start tightening things up, and realize from here on out it's not going to get any easier." said Montreal's Josh Gorges, who broke his stick seconds before Gonchar scored. "We need to stop this from here on out. We've waited too long already."

Following Gonchar's first goal since he injured a shoulder during the preseason, the Penguins finally protected a lead after failing to hold advantages of 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2. That was one of the problems that led to former coach Michel Therrien's firing and Bylsma's hiring on Sunday night. Pittsburgh lost to the Islanders 3-2 in a shootout the following day in Bylsma's debut.

Pittsburgh is 19-7-6 when leading or tied after two periods, with an alarming seven losses in 21 games when they were ahead going into the period.

"It was not really deflating -- yes, they were coming back but ... I don't think guys were worried, guys were still confident and nobody really had their head down going, 'Here we go again,"' Talbot said. "Guys were ready to go again, we played with passion and desperation and got a big two points."

The Penguins closed to within four points of the Eastern Conference's eighth and final play spot as Buffalo and Florida, currently occupying the final two spots with 66 points apiece, each lost.

Bylsma, previously the coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), promised a more aggressive team in both zones and a faster pace and the Penguins provided it, if only in the third period.

"The third period was kind of weird, it was up and down hockey," Plekanec said.

Weird? Not to Bylsma, it wasn't. It was exactly the style he wanted, although he would prefer better goaltending and not so many opposition scoring chances.

"It's definitely a more fun way for us to play," Orpik said. "It's going to take time to get used to and we were a little sloppy at times, but I thought the work ethic was the best we've had in a while."

Before that, Petr Sykora scored his 22nd by jumping on a rebound of Chris Minard's shot before Plekanec answered four minutes later in the first with a goal created by Matt Cooke's giveaway.

Miroslav Satan's first goal in eight games and his second in 14 games put Pittsburgh up 2-1 as he redirected Ryan Whitney's slap shot, but a brief 2-man advantage led to 39-year-old Mathieu Schneider's first goal since being traded back to the Canadiens by Atlanta for two draft picks Monday.

Schneider's slap shot eluded goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with seven seconds left in a 21-second two-man advantage created by penalties on Sykora and Talbot. The goal was Montreal's fourth on the power play in two nights.

Notes

  • Malkin's goal and assist boosted his NHL-leading total to 84 points.
  • The Canadiens were again without All-Star forward Alex Kovalev, who was ordered by general manager Bob Gainey to skip a two-game road trip that began with a 4-3 shootout loss in Washington on Wednesday night. Kovalev's situation will be re-evaluated Friday, before the Canadiens play Ottawa on Saturday night.
  • Ryan Whitney got his 150th career point by assisting on Satan's goal.
  • Price is 2-8-1 since returning from an unspecified injury. He was 7-0-2 immediately before the injury.
  • Gonchar scored his first goal since April 2.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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In his second game, Dan Bylsma gets his first win in charge of the Penguins bench. (Getty Images)
In his second game, Dan Bylsma gets his first win in charge of the Penguins bench. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
Montreal (30-22-7)0224
Pittsburgh  (28-25-6) «1135
Three Stars
E. Malkin
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
T. Plekanec
MON


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
S. Gonchar
PIT


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
10:27Petr Sykora (22), Wrist Shot. Assist: Minard, Malkin
2ND PERIOD
06:22Tomas Plekanec (13), Snap Shot. Assist: Kostitsyn
07:25Miroslav Satan (15), Tip-In. Assist: Whitney, Eaton
15:04Power Play - Mathieu Schneider (5), Slap Shot. Assist: Markov, Kostitsyn
3RD PERIOD
29.0Evgeni Malkin (26), Snap Shot. Assist: Crosby, Fedotenko
03:00Maxime Talbot (7), Snap Shot. Assist: Staal, Cooke
03:13Andrei Kostitsyn (22), Wrist Shot. Assist: Pacioretty, Hamrlik
06:31Tomas Plekanec (14), Slap Shot. Assist: Pacioretty
07:18Sergei Gonchar (1), Slap Shot. Assist: Fedotenko
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
04:58Laraque, 5 min, Fighting
04:58Godard, 5 min, Fighting
07:04Kostitsyn, 2 min, Cross-Checking
15:58Kennedy, 2 min, Hooking
2ND PERIOD
08:10Orpik, 2 min, Hooking
13:11Sykora, 2 min, Hooking
14:50Talbot, 2 min, Slashing
3RD PERIOD
None
Shots On Goal
 123T
Montreal381627
Pittsburgh881228
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Carey Price59:25235
Marc-Andre Fleury60:00234
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Montreal1-for-4
Pittsburgh0-for-1
Game Information
Attendance - 16968
Referees - Paul Devorski, Francois St-Laurent
Linesmen - Steve Miller, Thor Nelson
 
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