The Penguins don't lose two games in a row very often.
They almost never lose a shootout at Consol Energy Center, either.
But, thanks to a 6-5 shootout loss Thursday night to Montreal, they have done both.
The Penguins, who absorbed a 4-3 shootout loss to the New York Rangers in their final game before the Olympic break, have been beaten in consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 23-25, when they lost in regulation at Montreal and dropped a 4-3 overtime decision in Boston.
They looked, at times, like a team that hadn't played in nearly three weeks which, of course, they were.
They failed to protect a series of one-goal leads, and penalty-killers who have been the best in the NHL for much of the season allowed the Canadiens to score twice on four tries with the extra man.
"I think you always expect a lot -- there are high expectations here -- but the reality is, sometimes you're rusty," center Sidney Crosby said. "We'll have to make sure that we're better than this moving forward."
True enough, although the Penguins (40-15-4) still seemed poised to claim a couple of points when Crosby threw an Evgeni Malkin rebound past Montreal goalie Peter Budaj during a power play at 12:29 of the third period to break a 4-4 tie.
Just 19 seconds later, however, Penguins winger Tanner Glass was assessed a major penalty for elbowing after hitting Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin in the neutral zone. Replays showed that Glass actually made contact with Emelin's stick, which is what smacked Emelin in the face, but that didn't affect the ruling on the ice.
Or prevent Montreal from scoring the power-play goal that sent the game into overtime.
"I have seen the replay," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Unfortunately, for the referee, he doesn't get to see the replay."
Bylsma added that Penguins players and coaches were not watching Glass' hit on Emelin, and that their first impression of it came from the sound of the contact.
"All we could talk about was the loud smack we heard," Bylsma said. "I think that's what the referee heard and saw [Emelin's] head snap back."
Montreal needed just 78 seconds of that man-advantage for Daniel Briere to punch in a loose puck to make it 5-5.
Even though two of the Canadiens' goals came on the power play and a third was scored a few seconds after one expired, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who faced 29 shots, was visibly unhappy with his play.
"I was expecting better," he said. "I gave up five goals. ... It's disappointing."
It didn't get any better for him during the shootout, because after Fleury stopped Lars Eller in the first round, David Desharnais got a puck past him to give Montreal its margin of victory.
"I should have made the stop to keep [the shootout] going," Fleury said.
By the time Desharnais scored, Budaj had denied James Neal and Crosby. He then locked up the victory by rejecting Malkin in Round 3. Desharnais' goal snapped the Penguins' five-game winning streak against Montreal on home ice and gave them their second shootout loss in a row here.
Before being beaten by the Rangers, the Penguins had won 12 consecutive shootouts at Consol Energy Center. Despite that success, they recognize that having games settled by what amounts to a skills competition is a risky way to operate.
"We didn't want to get there in the first place," Fleury said. "It can go either way."
That was the case for the entire game, as neither team took a two-goal lead.
Both were guilty of glaring defensive lapses -- Penguins center Brandon Sutter, for example, made Montreal's first goal possible with a giveaway, then compensated for it by swiping the puck from Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban before scoring on a short-handed breakaway -- that will have their coaches guzzling six-packs of antacids while reviewing the game tape.
"We know that, defensively, we should be better than that," Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo said.
They will have to be -- and certainly expect to be -- as they move toward the playoffs. And, when they reach the postseason, the Penguins can only hope this game is nothing but a minor memory.
"At the end of the day it's a loss, but at least you get one point out of it," Sutter said.
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published February 27, 2014 9:57 PM