Pens fight past Habs
PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins have a 13-game winning streak, but that was also somewhat of an unlucky number for them.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was forced to leave Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens after he took a hard bump to the head in the last minute of the second period at the Consol Energy Center.
Fleury was injured after teammate Tyler Kennedy elbowed him, the result of Kennedy’s being shoved by Montreal’s Brian Gionta. Fleury finished the second period, but remained in the locker room when the team came out for the third period.
“He wasn’t able to go back out,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “He’ll continue to be evaluated. I don’t have anything for you right now.”
The Penguins have a busy schedule with games Thursday (Winnipeg) and Saturday afternoon (New York Islanders) at home.
Backup Tomas Vokoun was perfect against 12 shots in the third period as the Penguins remained undefeated in March.
“As a goalie, you have to be ready all the time,” Vokoun said. “I’ve played long enough and I know that anything can happen in a second. Even if you’re not scheduled to play that night, you never know. You have to be ready no matter what.”
Vokoun caught a bit of a break by having the second intermission to get ready.
“You can stretch and kind of prepare yourself,” he said.
Fleury was having another solid night until he was injured. He stopped 25 shots and was especially strong in the first period as Montreal clearly had the edge in zone play.
“He made some big saves in the first two periods, which kind of let us go after it a little more in the third,” Sidney Crosby said.
The Penguins thought Gionta took a cheap shot, and Matt Cooke was penalized for roughing against Gionta 31 seconds into the third.
“We took exception to the play,” Bylsma said. “I think that was clear.”
Bylsma said he didn’t like to see the penalty, but noted that the Penguins were especially committed to killing it because it came on an attempt to get retribution against Gionta.
Crosby’s goal was the difference in a tight-checking game that was much different from the game that started the Penguins’ streak. That was a 7-6 win in Montreal March 2.
“I don’t think anybody expected another 7-6 game,” Crosby said. “Both of these games wound up being decided by one goal, but they were two different games.”
Crosby streaked down the right side, his off wing, and was able to control a lead pass from Chris Kunitz. Crosby got off a quick shot that beat Carey Price from 30 feet on the stick side for his 15th goal.
“There was a lot of open ice on the wing, (Kunitz) made a great pass to me, and I had time to get a shot off,” Crosby said. “There weren’t a lot of chances out there, so it was nice to get that one.”
The play started with Brooks Orpik clearing the puck from the front of the net.
At the morning skate, Bylsma said that Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang were “close” to rejoining the lineup. Letang returned from a lower body injury after missing three games and played 24:20, second only to Paul Martin’s 25:12 among Pittsburgh defensemen.
However, Malkin sat out his ninth game with an upper body injury sustained March 9 at Toronto.
Newly acquired Brenden Morrow started the game, playing on a line with Matt Cooke and Brendan Sutter.
“It wasn’t the cleanest game, but it’s a win, and that’s all that matters,” Morrow said.
Morrow hit the ice with plenty of enthusiasm and impressed his new teammates, playing 12:55 with one hit and no shots on goal.
“He was exactly as advertised,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “He’s a tough guy to play against.”
The numbers build with each win, but Bylsma said the Penguins are paying no attention to the streak.
“It’s not on the minds of our players,” he said. “We’re just trying to win games. We’ve got to get better. We got another win, but we know this wasn’t our best game.”
Notes: With Morrow in the lineup, center Joe Vitale was a healthy scratch … Craig Adams took a puck in the face early in the third period and had to go to the training room for some stitch work … The streak is the second-longest in Penguins history, trailing only the NHL-record 17-game streak from March 9-April 10, 1993 … The combined shutout was the fourth in team history … Crosby got his first game-winning goal of the season. He is the 11th Penguins player to score one.