PITTSBURGH -- Just when the Montreal Canadiens seemingly had shut down the NHL's very-hot scoring leader, Evgeni Malkin found a way to carry the Pittsburgh Penguins to an improbable victory in a game that appeared to be lost.
Malkin, controlled most of the night by defensemen Josh Gorges and Hal Gill, helped rally Pittsburgh from a two-goal deficit by scoring the tying goal late in regulation, then was the only shooter to score during a three-round shootout as the Penguins surged back to beat the Canadiens 5-4 on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.
Pittsburgh won its fifth in a row, matching a season high set in October, after dropping its previous six. Malkin has eight goals during the streak, scoring at least once in every game.
"This same game might have gotten away from us a week and a half, two weeks ago," coach Dan Bylsma said.
These days, Malkin won't let it happen.
Malkin tied it with his 25th goal, his third in two nights and ninth in 10 games during a January to remember. He found the net with a bad-angled one-timer from the edge of the right circle that backup goalie Peter Budaj couldn't stop with 2:43 remaining in regulation.
"They brought it pretty hard at the end. You want not to sit back but you find yourself doing exactly that," Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "He's a hot player right now, he's a dangerous guy whenever he touches the puck. It was a heck of a shot from a tough angle."
Malkin, the second of Pittsburgh's three shooters, then beat Budaj again cleanly with a hard wrist shot inside the far post during the shootout.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't as sharp as he was in making 30 saves in a 4-1 win against the Rangers in New York on Thursday, but turned aside David Desharnais, Kostitsyn and Scott Gomez, who hasn't scored all season, in the tiebreaker.
Playing the front end of back-of-back games that were virtually must-win if they were to retain any playoff hopes, the Canadiens opened up leads of 3-1 and 4-2 but settled for a lone point. It might not be enough for a team that began the night in 13th place in the Eastern Conference and is still nine points out of a playoff spot.
"It wasn't nearly enough for a team hanging around for a playoff push," Max Pacioretty said.
Montreal is 4-9-2 under Cunneyworth, who replaced Jacques Martin on Dec. 17.
Andrei Kostitsyn scored an infrequent Canadiens power-play goal after Lars Eller gave them a much-needed early lead only 33 seconds into the game. But in a season when the Canadiens simply haven't had enough scoring or consistent play, they couldn't finish off Pittsburgh.
"We had a chance to close it out and unfortunately we didn't do it and it's very frustrating at a time like this," Pacioretty said. "If we hang onto that lead, it's a completely different story. It's frustrating it keeps happening but we've got to find answers."
One night after playing perhaps their best game of the season in New York, a victory keyed by Malkin's two goals, the Penguins appeared to be fatigued and flat for most of two periods -- only to pull out the two points by playing an exceptional third period.
Dustin Jeffrey scored his first two goals since March 5, the first shorthanded and the second early in the third period to get the Penguins to within 4-3. Jeffery was held without a point in his first five games back after missing 26 games with left knee soreness.
Kris Letang added his first goal since getting the game-winner in overtime Nov. 26 in Montreal, when a hard hit from Max Pacioretty caused him to sit out nearly two months with a concussion.
Erik Cole had put Montreal ahead 2-1 less than two minutes later off a rebound of Kostitsyn's shot, and Cole later assisted on Pacioretty's goal that made it 4-2 midway through the second period. Pacioretty also fought with Chris Kunitz during his first game against Pittsburgh since he drew a three-game suspension for his hit on Letang.
Kostitsyn's man-advantage goal 1:11 into the second period made it 3-1 and appeared to be exactly what the Canadiens needed. They began the game with a League-worst 12.3 percent power play conversion rate that would rank as the worst in team history. Montreal is 1 for 18 with the man advantage in its last four games.
But the fatigued Penguins, playing their third game in four nights, still found a way to come back on a night when they probably could have settled for a split of their back-to-back games.
"in the locker room we said, 'We just need to work 20 minutes and let's win this game, because we're playing at home and we need two points because we have just two more games left before the (All-Star) break," Malkin said.
The Kunitz-Malkin-Neal line was held without a point for the first 57:17 while being shadowed by defensemen Gorges and Gill, who served as a shutdown defenseman during the Penguins' Stanley Cup title run in 2009.
But Cunneyworth rushed the two back onto the ice only a half-minute after their shift ended when Bylsma sent out the Malkin line during a timeout. Malkin quickly scored his 16th in 19 games since the injured Sidney Crosby (concussion symptoms) left the lineup early last month.
"Geno, right now, he's just awesome," Fleury said.