MONTREAL (AP) — It was only a matter of time before the relentless Pittsburgh Penguins pulled away from the Montreal Canadiens and held them at bay.
Patric Hornqvist’s second goal of the game gave the Penguins the lead in the third period, and they went on to beat the Canadiens 5-3 Thursday night.
Pittsburgh fell behind 2-0 early before scoring tying it late in the first period, and taking the lead in the second. The Canadiens then quickly tied it again.
“It wasn’t looking good early but we stuck with it,” Penguins forward Sidney Crosby said. “We generated some really good chances in this game. Second half of the first and the rest of the game, we played with more urgency and desperation and the result took care of itself.”
Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust also scored for Pittsburgh, which remain tied with Washington in points atop the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals, however, currently hold the tiebreaker with two games in hand.
Tristan Jarry made 17 saves for his 14th win of the season while starter Matt Murray remains sidelined with a concussion.
Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron and Nicolas Deslauriers scored for Montreal, and Antti Niemi stopped 34 shots in his first regulation loss since Feb. 14.
Hornqvist put Pittsburgh in front for good with 7:36 remaining in the third period by deflecting Carl Hagelin’s shot past Niemi. Rust added some insurance with an empty-netter with 1:53 left.
“Give them credit. They shut us down for the latter part of the game and eventually took it over,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. “They’re Stanley Cup champions for a reason. … As the game went on, we got worse offensively. When they get scoring chances, they score. They shot from everywhere tonight.”
Montreal jumped ahead early in the first period with scores from Lehkonen and Byron.
Lehkonen deflected Jeff Petry’s shot past Jarry at 3:13 for his fourth goal in four games, and Byron made it 2-0 at 6:31 as he knocked in a rebound on the power play for his 17th.
The Penguins had two shots on net at that point, but the deficit seemed to act as a wake-up call.
Kessel got Pittsburgh on the board at 10:05 on a 2-on-1 with Rust after a giveaway by Petry in his own zone.
Hornqvist tied it 2-2 when his centering pass to Hagelin in front of goal went off Byron’s stick and trickled past his own goalie.
It was all Pittsburgh in the second period as they outshot the Canadiens 18-4, but they only had one goal to show for their efforts.
Malkin put the Penguins in front 3-2 at 10:30 with a one-timer from the faceoff dot while playing with the man advantage.
“Line after line they come at you,” Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher said. “You make a mistake and you spend a couple of minutes in your own zone. That wears you down as the game goes on. … We’re disappointed with the result but we were playing one of the best teams in the league. You can see why. It was a struggle for us tonight to create offense.”
Montreal tied it when Deslauriers found himself all alone in the slot two minutes later. The 27-year-old beat Jarry top shelf for his eighth.
NOTES: Penguins F Sidney Crosby had an assist on Malkin’s goal to move two away from 800 in his career.
Penguins: At the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
Canadiens: At Toronto on Saturday night.