The Penguins were not ready to concede two points to Montreal. Not with nearly two periods left in their game at Mellon Arena.
They probably should have been, though.
After all, they had spotted the Canadiens a three-goal lead, their No. 1 goalie had been yanked and whatever effort they were putting forth was producing nothing but perspiration puddles in their gloves.
But Montreal right winger Alex Kovalev, who altered the course of so many games here when he played for the Penguins, did it again last night. This time he inspired the comeback that allowed the Penguins to salvage a point in a 4-3 shootout loss.
Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov denied the Penguins a second point when he beat goalie Dany Sabourin with a backhander in the eighth round of the shootout. Markov was the only Montreal shooter to get a puck past Sabourin, while Canadiens goalie Carey Price was not beaten during the shootout.
"Both goalies were outstanding," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said.
Well, Sabourin was, anyway. Price didn't have to make many stops in the shootout because four or five of the Penguins failed to get the puck on goal.
"I was just trying to look big and give them a small target," Price said. "Force them to miss the net."
Or course, there didn't seem to be much chance of a shootout when Michael Ryder of Montreal stuck a shot over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's left shoulder 49 seconds into the second period to make it 3-0, but precisely a minute later, Kovalev drove Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin head-first into the boards with a hit from behind.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby immediately went after Kovalev, energizing the crowd and his teammates. Seventy-two seconds later, Petr Sykora got the Penguins on the board to kick-start their comeback.
"We had to play with a little more emotion," Crosby said. "And I think that goal, that power play, certainly lifted us a bit, got us back in the game."
Crosby made it 3-2 at 8:16, completing a give-and-go with Ryan Malone, who replaced Mark Recchi on his left side at the start of the game, before throwing the puck past Price from near the left hash for his fourth goal.
Ryan Whitney forced the overtime with another man-advantage goal at 18:08, taking a cross-ice feed from Malkin and beat Price from above the left hash.
Montreal had built its 3-0 advantage on goals by Mathieu Dandenault, Markov and Ryder. The Canadiens had a 14-6 edge in shots at the first intermission, and that probably didn't reflect how much they had controlled the play.
"In the offensive zone, we were pressing too much," Crosby said. "We'd get caught with three guys in there and we were worried so much about working hard that we weren't playing our position. We weren't working smart, I guess you could say."
Therrien had re-configured his lines before the game, plugging Malone into Recchi's spot on the No. 1 unit with Crosby and Malkin and putting Tyler Kennedy, recalled from Wilkes-Barre, between Recchi and Adam Hall on the fourth line.
He hadn't planned any radical moves in goal, but changed his mind after Ryder scored. And Therrien never had reason to regret turning over the game to Sabourin, who stopped all 13 shots he faced in regulation and overtime.
"He got us that point," Whitney said. "It was huge for him to come in and play that well."
Sabourin, whose father was part of the standing-room crowd of 17,085, said that going into the game on short notice wasn't a problem.
"You have to make sure you're ready if you go in there," Sabourin said.
Sabour earned rave reviews for his work -- "He gave us more than ample opportunity to get back in," Crosby said -- and Therrien was encouraged by his teammates' performance in the final two periods.
"I really liked the intensity we had in the second and third," he said. "It's something we have to build on. If we're capable of playing that style of hockey for 60 minutes, we should be fine."
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com . First Published October 28, 2007 4:00 AM