PITTSBURGH — Jason Zucker scored his first two goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at PPG Paints Arena on Friday.
Zucker scored twice 1:42 apart in the second period of his second game with the Penguins (35-15-6), who moved within three points of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division after winning for the 10th time in 14 games. The forward was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Monday.
“To me, it’s just about the win,” Zucker said. “That was great. It was good to get that winning feeling back. Great to do it with these guys. So it was a fun night.”
Carey Price made 24 saves for the Canadiens (27-26-7), who have lost three in a row after winning nine of the previous 12. They are seven points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.
“We feel that we want to keep pushing,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “I know our chances are getting slimmer every game we lose. But we look around and we get a little bit of help, like last night. So it gives you hope. At the end of the day, it’s pretty simple: We’re going to have to get on a really good winning streak if we plan on getting back into this hunt.”
Sidney Crosby had three assists, and Tristan Jarry made 34 saves for Pittsburgh. Crosby has at least one point in nine of 11 games since returning from core muscle surgery (17 points; five goals, 12 assists).
“It’s nice to get a flow of games here,” the Penguins captain said. “It’s been off-and-on since I’ve come back, so I think with this point in the schedule, it’ll be good just to play games consistently. I think with that, things will get better. I think it’s trending the right way. Just need to make sure I continue to get better here.”
Kris Letang gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with a snap shot on a power play at 7:25 of the second period. Joel Armia had a chance to tie it on a shorthanded breakaway but shot wide 2:35 later.
Zucker made it 2-0 with 2:00 remaining. He scored off a cross-crease pass from Crosby with a snap shot for his first goal since Jan. 22.
“That pass was incredible,” Zucker said. “I’m just glad I touched that.”
Tomas Tatar got Montreal within 2-1 with a wrist shot with 54 seconds remaining in the period.
“It’s not easy to play in this building,” Tatar said. “Obviously, they have a really good team. But I think we were battling with them for a long time.”
Zucker scored with 18 seconds left to extend the lead to 3-1. He held off Canadiens defenseman Brett Kulak while skating toward the crease before chipping a pass from Marcus Pettersson.
Zach Aston-Reese made it 4-1 with an empty-net goal with 1:44 remaining in the third period.
They said it
“I think everyone kind of knows what they have to do out there. Maybe you’re trying to force a little bit too much, force a little bit of plays out there that we shouldn’t have.” — Canadiens defenseman Victor Mete
“I thought [Zucker’s] speed was more noticeable tonight. You could see how good he is on the transition when the puck changes from defense to offense. Just his ability to create separation and jump into windows of opportunity. We’ve got some guys that can get him the puck, so I thought that was much more evident tonight. I just think Jason’s going to get more comfortable with every day that he’s here. You can see his ability to finish. He had two real good goals tonight. So we’re excited about having him.” — Penguins coach Mike Sullivan
Need to know
Zucker scored 14 goals in 46 games with the Wild this season. … Canadiens forward Nate Thompson blocked two shots playing 11:33 after he was a game-time decision with the flu. He did not participate in the morning skate. … The Canadiens scored fewer than three goals for a fourth straight game. They scored at least three goals in each of their previous five games. … The Penguins are 8-2-1 in their past 11 games against the Canadiens. … Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin had his five-game point streak end (eight points; three goals, five assists). … Pittsburgh is 20-5-4 at home this season, tied with the Boston Bruins (20-2-9) for the most home wins in the NHL.
Canadiens: Host the Dallas Stars on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CITY, SNE, TVAS, FS-SW, NHL.TV)
Penguins: Host the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, SN)