The Penguins and Montreal Canadiens seem to agree on this much: Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world.
But move on to just about any other topic -- including who is responsible for Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury being injured late in the second period of a 1-0 victory against the Canadiens Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center -- and their perspectives couldn't be much different.
The Penguins are adamant that Canadiens winger Brian Gionta intentionally knocked Tyler Kennedy of the Penguins into Fleury, causing an unspecified injury that forced Fleury to sit out the third period.
"It's our opinion in here that he shoved [Kennedy]," Penguins left winger Matt Cooke said. "That's what we all thought."
Gionta didn't share that assessment, suggesting that the culprits were Kennedy and gravity.
"If you watch the replay, their own guy falls on Fleury," he said. "Pretty much, it's self-explanatory."
Penguins vs. Winnipeg Jets, Consol Energy Center.
7:08 p.m. Thursday.
Something that isn't subject to conflicting opinions is that the Penguins (26-8) now own a 13-game winning streak, the second-longest in franchise history, and that they have further distanced themselves from the second-place Canadiens in the Eastern Conference.
That's almost of secondary importance, however, compared to Fleury's health.
The shutout he shared with Tomas Vokoun raised his record to 18-5 and losing him for an extended period would be a serious blow.
"If your No. 1 goalie ever gets hurt, you worry about it," left winger Chris Kunitz said. "He's a huge part of our team."
Coach Dan Bylsma offered no information on the nature or severity of Fleury's injury -- preliminary indications were that it might be a neck problem -- but teammate Kris Letang put forth an optimistic evaluation of Fleury's prognosis.
"I think [Fleury] will be all right," he said.
Brenden Morrow, acquired Sunday from Dallas, made his Penguins debut, playing primarily on the second line with Dustin Jeffrey and James Neal. He logged 12 minutes and 55 seconds of ice time and was credited with one hit, but no shots.
"I'm going to have some more time to adjust," he said. "Long travel day. The energy levels will maybe be up a little bit [in the next game]."
The Penguins gave Fleury and Vokoun the only goal they needed at 13:19 of the second period, when Sidney Crosby pulled in a long pass from Kunitz -- "[Kunitz] put it right on my stick," he said -- and beat Montreal goalie Carey Price high on the stick side from just above the right dot.
"Obviously, he's the best player in the world," Price said. "Five millimeters was the difference in the game tonight."
Montreal coach Michel Therrien, appearing at Consol Energy Center as a visiting coach for the first time, echoed that sentiment.
"We got beat tonight by the best player in the world," he said. "By the perfect shot."
The Canadiens, conversely, couldn't get any of their 37 shots past Fleury or Vokoun, 12 of which they launched at Vokoun in the final 20 minutes.
Vokoun had been expecting to be nothing more than an interested observer, but has been around long enough to know that he could be summoned to work with little notice.
"As a goalie, you have to be ready all the time," he said. "You never know. You play long enough, I know that anything can happen, at any second."
In this case, that second came in the final minute of the second, when Kennedy bowled into Fleury.
The Penguins were sufficiently upset about it that Cooke went after Gionta at the start of the third period, trying to coax him into a fight but ending up with a roughing minor, instead.
"At least it sends a message that we're not a team that's just going to allow stuff to happen and let it fall by the wayside," Cooke said. "We're a group in here that sticks together."
The Canadiens were unable to generate the tying goal while Cooke was in the penalty box.
"Our guys were up for killing that penalty," Bylsma said. "We definitely went over the boards with the mindset that this was a penalty we were going to kill off."
Most important, they found a way to beat a quality opponent when they weren't at their best.
"It probably wasn't the [most technically sound] game we've ever played," Morrow said. "But we got the win, and that's all that matters."penguins
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 or Twitter @pgshelly First Published March 27, 2013 1:45 AM