Penguins fall at Montreal in shootout, 2-1
Penguins goaltender Brent Johnson deflects a shot during the first period of Thursday's game against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
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MONTREAL -- Some guys, they miss a night of work, and it goes almost unnoticed.
Sidney Crosby isn't one of those guys.
He didn't play in the Penguins' 2-1 shootout loss to Montreal at Bell Centre Thursday night because of a mild concussion that is expected to keep him out of the lineup for about a week.
Crosby was hurt in an 8-1 victory against Tampa Bay Wednesday night, and a lot of people were keenly aware of that, including the locals who had turned over a week's salary to scalpers with the idea of getting a first-hand look at the world's finest player.
So were his teammates.
What really matters, though, is that while the Penguins realized that Crosby wasn't in uniform for the first time this season -- kind of tough to ignore when the NHL's leading scorer isn't around -- they tried not to make an issue of it.
"We have a lot of depth here," forward Craig Adams said. "Obviously, when you don't have Sid in the lineup, you're not as good of a team, but I still think we had a good team on the ice."
Good enough, at least, to earn a point that helped to solidify the Penguins' hold on first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins might have gotten two if Benoit Pouliot, who scored Montreal's only goal in regulation, hadn't managed to get a puck past Penguins goalie Brent Johnson in the fifth round of the shootout.
Pouliot threw a series of moves at Johnson before sliding a shot behind him while holding the stick with only his right arm.
"I was just trying to stay with the puck," Johnson said. "I just got ahead of myself, and I couldn't get back."
While the Penguins offered no insight on the nature or cause of Crosby's injury, other than to call it "upper-body," it apparently stemmed from a hit by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
Hedman knocked Crosby into the boards and glass, a blow that could have done damage to, among other things, Crosby's head, neck or shoulder.
Coach Dan Byslma said Crosby's injury "is not connected" to a blind-side hit he absorbed from Washington forward David Steckel in the Winter Classic Saturday at Heinz Field.
Crosby accompanied his teammates Wednesday night to Montreal but returned to Pittsburgh to have his injury assessed after it was determined that he wouldn't play against the Canadiens.
"When he woke up this morning, we decided he was not going to play in the game, and he'd be evaluated back in Pittsburgh," Bylsma said.
The Penguins also played without left winger Matt Cooke, who returned to Pittsburgh because of what Bylsma described as "personal issues."
With those two gone, the Penguins dressed 11 forwards, one fewer than usual, and seven defensemen. That led to some creative personnel combinations, including one line that had Mike Rupp on the left, Jordan Staal in the middle and defensive defenseman Deryk Engelland on right wing.
The Penguins did some of their finest work in the middle of the third period, with the score tied, 1-1.
They were assessed three minor penalties -- two of them delay-of-game calls on Johnson and defenseman Paul Martin -- in a span of 1:46 in the middle of the third period, forcing them to play with a two-man disadvantage for a full two minutes.
They did it brilliantly, and the Canadiens generated only a couple of quality scoring chances before the Penguins got back to even strength.
"We did a spectacular job of killing those off," Johnson said.
Fourth-line right winger Arron Asham gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 2:14 of the opening period, when he punched a Ben Lovejoy rebound past Montreal goalie Carey Price for his fifth of the season. Alex Goligoski picked up the second assist.
The Penguins kept Montreal off the board until 12:27 of the second, when Pouliot scored from inside the right circle for what proved to be the final goal of regulation.
"I thought we came out and had a decent first period," Asham said. "But the second and third, I thought they dictated the play."
So, to some degree, did the absence of the guy who didn't get into the game at all.
First Published January 7, 2011 12:00 am