Habs stun Pens in OT


TORONTO — Jeff Petry scored at 13:57 of overtime, Carey Price made 39 saves, and the underdog Montreal Canadiens stunned the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Saturday to open their best-of-five qualifying round series as the NHL raised the curtain on the restart to its pandemic-halted season.

Petry picked up a loose puck in the right faceoff circle and ripped a shot through Murray before being mobbed by teammates.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Nick Suzuki had the goals in regulation for Montreal, the Eastern Conference’s No. 12 seed in the league’s 24-team resumption of play.

Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust replied for Pittsburgh, the No. 5 seed in the East, which will look to rebound in Monday’s Game 2.

Matt Murray stopped 32 shots inside an empty Scotiabank Arena as the league returned following a 142-day absence after COVID-19 ground the sport — and much of society — to a halt some 4 1/2 months ago.

Jonathan Drouin had a chance to win it for Montreal earlier in overtime on a penalty shot when he was held on a breakaway, but the puck rolled off the end of his stick and dribbled wide.

Tied 2-2 through 40 minutes, Montreal killed off a 5-on-3 Pittsburgh power play for 1:32 early in the third period despite some sustained pressure. Both teams then failed to connect on 5-on-4 advantages, with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin coming closest from the slot.

Conor Sheary had a golden opportunity to win it with 3:03 left in regulation for Pittsburgh, but the winger missed the net on a penalty shot after Crosby hit the post. Montreal then came within a whisker at the other end, but a deflected point shot rang off iron behind Murray and stayed out.

Saturday marked the first time an NHL post-season game has featured two penalty shots since March 29, 1923.

The youthful Canadiens carried a 1-0 lead after the first thanks to Price’s stellar performance, and doubled that advantage at 6:53 of the second when Suzuki stole the puck from Brian Dumoulin at the Montreal blue line and raced in on a 2-on-1 before ripping a shot upstairs on Murray.

The battle-tested Penguins, who still have the core of their Stanley Cup-winning rosters from 2016 and 2017, got that one back on a delayed penalty at 9:55 when Crosby banked a shot in off Price with the netminder caught out of position. Then with Drouin off in the box, Rust poked a shot home from the lip of the crease 2:39 later to bring Pittsburgh back level at 2-2.

Pittsburgh came out firing, but Price shut the door at every turn, including two pad stops on Malkin from the slot as the Canadiens trailed 10-1 on the shot clock less than six minutes into the first.

Coming off a tough sophomore season where he was demoted to the minors and suffered a spleen injury, Kotkaniemi provided Montreal an unlikely counterpunch when a point shot went in off the former No. 3 pick at 11:27.

Tomas Tatar nearly made it 2-0 later in the period with a pair of chances on a power play, but the winger failed to find the range as Pittsburgh outshot Montreal 18-6 through 20 minutes.

The Canadiens were playing out the string — 15 points back of the Penguins — and looking to next season after dealing some key veterans prior to the trade deadline when the novel coronavirus forced the NHL to suspend its schedule March 12.

Sitting a pedestrian 24th in the standings at the time, Montreal was handed a lifeline when the league decided on a 24-team format.

And while the Canadiens have a second chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, a significant section of the fan base is hoping they lose to the heavily-favoured Penguins and then win the NHL’s second draft lottery for the right to pick Quebec-born junior star Alexis Lafreniere at No. 1.

Montreal and Pittsburgh squared off in the third game of the day at Scotiabank Arena, which could have been mistaken for a meat locker as the league looks to protect the ice surface from the summer heat, after the Carolina Hurricanes beat the New York Rangers 3-2, and the New York Islanders downed the Florida Panthers 2-1.

Notes: The Canadiens and Penguins have met twice before in the post-season, with Montreal winning both times, including a seven-game victory in the second round back in 2010. … Pittsburgh had the seventh-best record in the NHL when the season was suspended March 12.