Bennett, Fleury lead Penguins to a complete victory over Canadiens
MONTREAL — Sidney Crosby ended his goal drought, and Marc-Andre Fleury earned yet another shutout.
Before Crosby and Fleury left their mark, though, left wing Beau Bennett paved the way to an impressive 4-0 victory against the Canadiens in Montreal.
The Penguins own the NHL’s best record (13-3-1, 27 points).
Bennett produced a goal and two assists before the game was 21 minutes over, a breakout performance in his fourth game of the season.
“He was really good tonight,” center Brandon Sutter said. “He just looked dangerous tonight. Great to see him play like that.”
Bennett started the scoring by picking off defenseman Nathan Beaulieu’s pass and burying a wrist shot past goaltender Carey Price’s glove.
Later in the first, he dangled around two defenders before finding defenseman Kris Letang, who set up Steve Downie’s goal. Bennett was stopped on a breakaway by Price later in the opening period, as Bennett emerged as the game’s dominant player during the first two periods.
On his first shift of the second period, Bennett raced down the right wing before finding Sutter, who ripped a shot past Price.
Sutter said the goal should belong to Downie, who apparently tipped it. But there was no mistaking who was most responsible for the goal.
“Beau made a great pass there,” Sutter said. “He’s got that great vision. I don’t mind stepping into shots like that.”
Bennett admitted a day earlier that he hadn’t been completely comfortable in his first three games back in the lineup. His timing giving him problems.
Everything he did on this night indicates that Bennett has reclaimed his form from the preseason, when Bennett was among the team’s best players before injuring the MCL in his left knee during a training camp drill.
A couple of days to relax apparently was positive for Bennett.
“Having a day off on Sunday and getting a full practice with the team on Monday was good for me,” Bennett said.
The Penguins had planned for Sutter, Bennett and Downie to collaborate on the third line even before training camp begin.
Instead of opting for a traditional, physical third line, coach Mike Johnston wanted his third unit to specialize in puck possession.
While Downie fits the traditional third line mold — he has three goals this season, but also leads the league in penalty minutes —Sutter and Bennett are finesse players with long reaches, capable of possessing the puck for long stretches.
Sutter and Bennett have both said they enjoy playing on the same line. It looked like it against Montreal.
“Bennett and Sutter showed that chemistry in the preseason,” Johnston said. “We liked that chemistry a lot.”
With a victory very much in hand, Crosby scored a power play goal on the Penguins’ only opportunity with the man advantage, his first goal in nine games.
Fleury stopped all 27 shots he faced for his 32nd career shutout. With four shutouts this season, Fleury is one shy of his career high with 65 games remaining on the schedule.
“I haven’t always had a lot of success here,” Fleury said. “Friends and family are here. It’s a good two points.”
Montreal entered the game with a six-game winning streak and the NHL’s most points.
“This was a test for us,” forward Max Pacioretty said. “And we failed it.”
Bennett and the third line passed with flying colors.
“He was really good,” Sutter said. “The whole team was good tonight. It felt good.”