It was an even stronger boost for the Habs, who were 3-6-1 in their last 10 games leading into Thursday night, after learning earlier in the day that defenceman Josh Gorges would miss the rest of the season with career ending knee surgery.
Carey Price turned away 31 saves (10 in the third period) and was perfect in the shootout, standing tall and cross-armed after stopping Chris Kunitz for the win.
"I try and stay quiet, and let them make the first move," Price said on his approach to the shootout, the first for the Canadiens this season.
The Canadiens goaltender certainly appeared more relaxed, focused and aware of the game surroundings, as opposed to recent starts, and attributed it to a four-day break.
"It was an excellent week to get some work in, and work on the details, and it paid off," Price said in picking up his 20th win of the season and second against Pittsburgh. "Those are definitely the points we needed."
Looking quick to the shot counter, the Penguins would appear to have been dominating in the first period, outshooting the Canadiens 13-5 in the first 20 minutes. Watching the game however was a different story as the Canadiens had their chances in the offensive zone and either had shots blocked, missed or turned over the puck to the Pittsburgh defenders.
It was a defensive trend that the visitors managed throughout the game, most notably killing 1:39 of 5-on-3, which would have been the turning point had the final outcome gone in the Penguins favour. Craig Adams was the star of that penalty kill for Pittsburgh, blocking two James Wisniewski shots point blank.
There was a bit of a scare for the Canadiens, when Jaroslav Spacek crashed into the net while attempting to break up a play. With Gorges and Andrei Markov already gone for the season, and Roman Hamrlik missing the game while he recovers from a minor injury, you could sense the concern from the Bell Centre crowd. Fortunately the veteran did return to the ice.
With veterans on the mend, it was the opportune time for the rookies to pull up their socks. P.K. Subban did just that, logging 24:25 and recording 2 shots on goal and leading the rush on a few occasions.
Outside of a power play that went 0 for 5, it was an very acceptable effort for coach Jacques Martin who praised his goalie and team alike.
"We got some key saves, at key times," Martin said. "We competed harder and we got better as the game went on. We've been fighting back better in the last three games."
Now at the midway point of the season, the Canadiens now sit at 22-16-3 (47 points) and are a single point back of the Boston Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division. The two team square off Saturday at the Bell Centre.
A look at the game, from the Pens perspective, from PensBurgh
Three Stars: 1. Benoit Pouliot 2. Carey Price 3. Davis Desharnais
|02:14 PIT||Arron Asham, 5 (Ben Lovejoy, 6 Alex Goligoski, 16) (PIT: 1 45 25 3 18 6 MTL: 21 45 31 58 68 67)|
|12:28 MTL||Benoit Pouliot, 8 (Mathieu Darche, 7 David Desharnais, 1) (PIT: 1 9 7 4 14 10 MTL: 6 52 20 57 31 58)|
|00:00 MTL||Benoit Pouliot, 9 (PIT: 1 MTL: 31)|