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March 27, 2013

Penguins shut out Canadiens to extend win streak

PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby scored the game’s only goal late in the second period and the Pittsburgh Penguins extended their winning streak to 13 with a 1-0 victory over Montreal on Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 22 shots he faced but did not play in the third period following a collision in front of the Penguins’ net. Tomas Vokoun filled in and made 15 saves to give Pittsburgh just the fourth combined shutout in franchise history.

Fleury appeared woozy after getting slammed into by teammate Tyler Kennedy and Montreal’s Brian Gionta late in the second period. He laid on the ice for a moment to collect himself, but did not come out of the dressing room for the third.

Carey Price made 24 saves for the Canadiens, but couldn’t stop Montreal from losing consecutive games for the first time this season.

Crosby finally broke through in a tight game with 6:41 remaining in the second period, taking a long lead pass from Chris Kunitz then sending a wrist shot from the right circle over Price’s right shoulder for his 15th goal of the season.

Fleury and Vokoun made it stand up on a night the Penguins were outshot 37-25. Pittsburgh has allowed just nine goals in the last nine games of its run, the lowest total in the NHL.

The Penguins didn’t take long putting newly acquired forward Brenden Morrow to work, sending him out to take the opening faceoff. Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma kept his newest acquisition on the move, sending him out with different combinations looking to find a rhythm.

Montreal did its best to prevent Pittsburgh from finding any, taking away open ice early and spending most of the time keeping Fleury busy. It hardly looked like the wild 7-6 overtime victory by the Penguins three weeks ago that kick-started their march through March.

Pittsburgh needed more than six minutes to register a shot, then again coach Michel Therrien knows a few things about handling the Penguins. He coached Pittsburgh to the 2008 Stanley Cup finals before Bylsma replaced him in February 2009, and promptly led the Penguins to a title.

Tuesday night was Therrien’s first game in Pittsburgh since his ouster. He politely nodded during a brief video tribute in the middle of the first period, but that would be the extent of the pleasantries on a night both teams hope served as a preview of a late postseason series.

Pittsburgh is gearing up for a Cup run, picking up Morrow from the Dallas Stars on Sunday then adding burly defenseman Doug Murray from San Jose on Monday.

Murray won’t arrive until today, but his new team certainly could have used him to clear some space in front of the net against the persistent Canadiens.

Montreal spent most of the night driving at Fleury. He was more than equal to the task and spectacular at times, helped by a pair of shots by Canadiens forward Michael Ryder that hit off the post.

Fleury’s night ended shortly after getting crunched by Gionta and Kennedy, though Vokoun looked sharp on short notice as Pittsburgh set a new franchise record for wins in a month.

Notes: Pittsburgh F Craig Adams left in the second period after taking a puck off the face. ... Pittsburgh hosts Winnipeg on Thursday. Montreal travels to Boston today for a showdown with the Bruins ... Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik played in his 619th game, tying him with Ron Shock for the sixth-most games in franchise history. ... The Canadiens scratched D Tomas Kaberle and Fs Mike Blunden and Ryan White. ... Montreal is 4-4-2 when it does not score first.

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