NHL: CANADIENS 3, PENGUINS 2 -- Surging Canadiens quiet Crosby, Pens
MONTREAL — Tomas Plekanec had no problem shutting down Sidney Crosby.
Plekanec was matched up with Crosby and kept the Penguins captain without a point in the Montreal Canadiens’ 3-2 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
“You want to make sure he’s not on the score sheet, and that’s what we’ve done,” Plekanec said. “When he’s not on his game, when the game doesn’t go his way, he’s frustrated.
“That’s what you want to accomplish. We wanted to get under his skin and make sure he wasn’t on his game. When Crosby’s slashing guys, jumping guys, you know he’s off his game.”
Crosby recorded four shots, but was a minus-1 and won only 22 percent of faceoffs.
Plekanec said Crosby trash-talked all game long.
“He was talking all the time,” he said. “I didn’t say anything. I was just listening. I’m a good listener.”
Unlike Crosby, the Czech forward scored his seventh goal and won 16 of 21 faceoffs.
“Every aspect of his game was excellent,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said of Plekanec. “He’s a smart player. He’s playing the right way. He’s always in a good position on the ice. He’s doing a lot of good things. I’m confident putting guys like that on the ice.
“It’s always a challenge to face the league’s best player, but he was up for the challenge.”
Max Pacioretty scored two goals to help the Canadiens (13-9-2) stretch their winning streak to three. Carey Price made 29 saves, including a big stop against Crosby in the first period.
“When you make a couple of stops early, it definitely helps you get comfortable,” said Price, who has a 2.05 goals-against-average and a .935 save percentage. “We’re just trying to get a win. In order to do that, we have to play well against (Crosby).
“But they have a lot of other guys who can put the puck in the net.”
James Neal had a pair of goals in the third period for the Penguins (15-9-0), and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 26 shots.
Pacioretty’s sixth goal of the season gave the Canadiens a 1-0 lead at 1:53 of the second period.
Pacioretty intercepted a weak clear by Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in the neutral zone, skated across the blue line, and fired a low shot in off the post.
Montreal opened the third period with two goals in quick succession.
Plekanec added to the Canadiens’ lead at 1:05 when his wrist shot beat Fleury between the legs. Pacioretty scored his second of the game a minute later after he stole a bouncing puck from Evgeni Malkin on the Penguins’ blue line.
Pittsburgh cut its deficit to 3-1 at 5:44 when Neal fired a shot over Price’s glove and into the top of the net during a power play.
Neal made it a one-goal game when he added another. Neal sidestepped Price and slotted his fourth of the season into the back of the net on the backhand at 17:07.
But Price held the Penguins at bay the rest of the way.
“In the last four minutes, we had some flurries around the net, some pucks in there, and he was strong,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “We weren’t able to crack him there. In the first period, he gave us three or four real good saves that were the difference.”
Montreal has won three in a row, outscoring its opponents 12-6 during that stretch. The Canadiens came off a 3-2 victory against the Capitals on Friday in which they scored three times in less than five minutes in the first period.
NOTES: This was the first of three matchups between the teams this season. They will meet again In Pittsburgh on Jan. 22. ... Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 30 points. ... P.K. Subban leads the Canadiens in points with three goals and 17 assists. ... Montreal defensemen have gone seven games without scoring. ... Pittsburgh is in first place in the new Metropolitan Division.