MONTREAL (AP) -The Montreal Canadiens took the attack to the Pittsburgh Penguins and were rewarded with their third win in a row.
Brian Gionta had two goals and an assist and Jaroslav Halak made 18 saves to win his third straight start, leading Montreal to a 5-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Gionta beat Brent Johnson for his second goal of the game - his 16th of the season - to put Montreal up by three 10:47 into the third.
Gionta recorded his first two points of the game 43 seconds apart in the second, scoring on a breakaway at 9:38 before assisting on Scott Gomez's power-play goal that put the Canadiens up 3-1 at 10:21.
``We were initiating the play,' Gionta said. ``We weren't sitting back and waiting for them to come to us. Against a team like that, so skilled, so offensively talented, you need to initiate the play and get them back on their heels.'
Tomas Plekanec scored his 15th goal 29 seconds into the game and Mathieu Darche restored the Canadiens' two-goal lead at 4-2 with his second goal 7:15 into the third.
``It was a special feeling scoring in the Bell Centre for the Canadiens,' said Darche, a 33-year-old Montreal native who played for McGill University. ``It was a rush of adrenaline and it was nice because it gave us an extra goal lead. With a team like Pittsburgh you never have too many goals because you know they have the firepower to come back.'
Pascal Dupuis, Bill Guerin and Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, who had won two in a row and four of five.
``I don't think we played a very good game today as a team, and that's a very disappointing way to lose a match,' Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who was replaced by Johnson after Darche's goal, made 24 saves. Johnson stopped three shots.
Pittsburgh, which was outshot 32-21, hadn't played since Monday, when Sidney Crosby recorded his third hat trick of the season in a 5-4 come-from-behind win over Buffalo.
``I think the media has made a big deal about having four days,' Bylsma said. ``It's not that odd to have that in a normal NHL season.'
Scheduled to play in snow-covered Washington on Sunday, the Penguins flew to Newark, N.J. following the game and planned to make the rest of the trip by bus.
Brock Trotter made his NHL debut for Montreal, one day after he was called up from Hamilton of the AHL along with Ryan White and David Desharnais.
Playing as a line, the Canadiens' rookies drew penalties on back-to-back shifts in the second, including Brooks Orpik's interference call at 10:09, moments after Gionta scored on a breakaway to give Montreal a 2-1 lead.
``They created a lot of energy, they created a lot of chances and they weren't a liability at all out there defensively,' Gionta said. ``I thought they played a great game, especially having three of them together out there.'
Gomez made it 3-1 with his eighth goal 12 seconds into the ensuing power play.
Guerin drew Pittsburgh within 3-2 with his 17th goal at 13:57.
Malkin got his 20th goal 16:44 into the third when he came out of the penalty box and drove in on a breakaway to beat Halak.
The game was already tied at 1 just over a minute in after each team scored a disputed goal.
Plekanec opened the scoring 29 seconds in when he fired a shot into a wide-open net after Fleury was upended by Darche after he played a puck behind the goal.
Fleury argued in vain to referee Steve Kozari, who signaled the goal and did not call a penalty on the play.
``I didn't like seeing our goalie on his tail for the goal,' Bylsma said.
Dupuis tied it at 1:02 on a play that required a video review. Halak stopped Jordan Staal's shot, but the rebound went in off Dupuis, who drove the crease.
NOTES: Crosby had a hat trick in a 6-1 win over Montreal on Oct. 28. ... Pittsburgh ended a five-game winning streak against the Canadiens. ... Malkin was serving Guerin's instigator penalty for his fight with White 14:35 into the third. ... Darche, who has five points in nine games with Montreal, made his NHL debut with Columbus in 2000-01 and has also played with Nashville, San Jose and Tampa Bay.
The Associated Press News Service
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