Referee Kyle Rehman holds back Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who prepares to fight Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj in the third period at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury turns away the Canadiens' Daniel Briere in the second period at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Penguins talked.
The Penguins listened.
A game after they played one of their worst — if not bottom-of-the-barrel — games, they rebounded Wednesday night with a 5-1 trouncing of the Montreal Canadiens at Consol Energy Center.
“It was a good response,” Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of his team’s comeback from a loss by the same score at home Monday night against Florida.
In particular, Crosby couldn’t stifle a grin over what happened near the end, when one of his teammates had the intention of making the response game complete by way of his fists.
The Canadiens, frustrated, began to get chippy. After a series of events that led to a scrum around the Penguins net, the goaltenders — the Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Montreal’s Peter Budaj — began eyeing one another from opposite ends of the ice.
“It was a little scrum in my net,” Fleury said. “I backed off and I saw the other goalie was going to the blue [line]. I looked at him; he looked at me.”
They skated toward each other and threw off their blockers and gloves. The officials, though, intervened before the two could fight.
His teammates were left to teeter. They knew it wasn’t smart for their No. 1 goalie — who improved his league-best win total to 28 by stopping 23 of Montreal’s 24 shots — to risk getting hurt, but they were entertained by the idea of the netminders fighting.
“I haven’t been on the ice for [a goalie fight] since junior, so [we just said], ‘Let’s go, ‘Flower,’ do a good job’ ” Crosby said. “I don’t know who would win, but I think both looked like they were pretty willing.”
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was the voice of wisdom, saying: “I commend the referees,. They did a good job of stopping that one and not letting that happen.”
There wasn’t much else that was stern about the Penguins reaction and demeanor after the game. They had produced all sorts of adjectives and descriptive phrases to describe the loss to Florida. None were complimentary; all aimed at themselves.
“Bad,” Crosby called it.
“A slap in the face,” his linemate, Chris Kunitz, tagged it.
“Awful” and “poor” said defenseman Matt Niskanen.
“We laid an egg,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
Those four players — and eight others — each had at least one point against Montreal. Jussi Jokinen scored twice, Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, and all six defensemen had at least one assist, with Niskanen logging two.
“We want that,” said Crosby, who had a goal to drive his NHL-leading point total to 69. “Our depth is a big part of our team if we’re going to have success.”
The Penguins opened the scoring when Malkin made a slick move, getting around Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov near the right and carrying the puck toward the net. That pulled starting goaltender Carey Price toward Malkin. At the last second, he fed Jokinen, who was driving down the opposite side and had an open net to make it 1-0 at 8:48 of the first period.
“Those [nice feeds], you probably have even a little bit too much time, so you have lots of time to think, ‘What if I miss this puck?’ ” Jokinen said. “That’s as nice as you’ll get the puck, and you don’t want to screw it up.”
Taylor Pyatt tipped in a power play goal to make it 2-0 before Rene Bourque gave Montreal its only goal. The Penguins added goals by Jokinen, Crosby and Malkin, the last of which prompted Canadiens coach Michel Therrien to pull Price and replace him with Budaj. It was with 5:10 left in regulation that the goalies nearly started throwing punches.
“I thought for a little while, it was going to happen. …. Then the ref didn’t want anything to do with it,” Fleury said. “I asked him very politely to let me go. But he didn’t want to.”
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