Evgeni Malkin is roughed up by the Canadiens' Roman Hamrik.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
Sidney Crosby celebrates his third goal of the game last night at Mellon Arena.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby's line was the only one coach Dan Bylsma kept intact for the Penguins' game against Montreal at Mellon Arena last night.
It practically was the only he had to use, too.
Oh, it's not that Crosby and his wingers, Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin, were the only ones to contribute to the Penguins' 6-1 victory over the Canadiens.
Fact is, just about every Penguins who stepped onto the ice chipped in with something significant.
But no one did more than Crosby and his linemates. Consider:
• Crosby scored the Penguins' first, second and fourth goals for his third career hat trick, accounted for nine of the Penguins' 37 shots and went 16-8 on faceoffs.
• Kunitz scored his first goal of the season -- and just his second in
41 games, including playoffs -- after piling up three assists to earn his first four-point game in the NHL.
• Guerin had three assists, lifting him past Penguins alum John LeClair and into seventh place on the all-time scoring list for U.S.-born players.
It was the best game of the season for the Crosby line in just about every regard, and Guerin said he had been waiting for the group to jell the way it did against Montreal.
"We had more to give," he said. "Not just points and things like that, but playing more solid and creating more. ??? Hopefully, this is a foundation for what we can do the rest of the season."
Having a cornerstone like Crosby helps with that foundation. He was dominant in just about every facet of play.
"Sid definitely was ready for a big night, a big breakout game," Guerin said.
He put the Penguins in front when he converted a feed from Guerin at
8:33 of the opening period, shoveled the rebound of a Kunitz shot past Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak on a backhand at 5:08 of the second and completed his hat trick at 15:33 of the second, when Halak stopped his shot from close range, only to have the puck strike his right skate and go in.
"I was pretty sure that I didn't kick it;" Crosby said.
A video review reached the same conclusion.
While getting three goals was a rarity for Crosby, simply scoring one might have been even more novel for Kunitz.
When he beat goalie Carey Price, who replaced Halak after the second period, on a breakaway at 16:31 of the third, it ended a dry spell that had dragged on longer than anyone could have anticipated.
"(Kunitz) has been looking for that one for a long time," Guerin said.
"He's been pressing. A big night like that will do a lot for a guy."
Kunitz said that, "definitely, it feels good," and his co-workers might have enjoyed his goal even more than Kunitz did.
"To get one all alone on a breakaway like that, making a great move, he was very deserving of it and it was a great way to cap off a big night for him," Crosby said.
The Penguins had to reconfigure three of their lines last night because of an unspecified injury to right winger Tyler Kennedy, who did not play.
Chris Bourque played alongside Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko, Jordan Staal was between Matt Cooke and Craig Adams and the fourth line had Pascal Dupuis and Eric Godard on the wings with Mike Rupp in the middle.
Shifting to center from his usual spot on the left side didn't seem to bother Rupp, because he scored his third goal of the season. That matched his output in 72 games with New Jersey last season.
Rupp didn't get much attention after the game and neither did goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, even though he stopped all but one of the 24 shots Montreal threw at him.
The only one that eluded him was by Tomas Plekanec from directly in front of the crease during a five-on-three power play at 5:39 of the third period. If not for that goal, Fleury would have earned his 16th career shutout -- and first against the team he grew up rooting for.
The same team, it should be noted, Crosby cheered for as a boy. And that he now has torched for 10 goals and 12 assists in 15 career games.