PITTSBURGH (AP) — Marc-Andre Fleury skated to center ice, eager to add an exclamation point to his 28th victory of the season.
The Pittsburgh goaltender was cut off, though, by referee Kyle Rehman before he could reach Montreal counterpart Peter Budaj. All Fleury could do was shrug his shoulders as Rehman guided him out of harm's way.
"Oh well," Fleury said with a laugh.
It was the only thing that didn't go Fleury's way on a night the Penguins restored order to their universe. Fleury stopped 23 shots, Jussi Jokinen picked up two goals and Pittsburgh dominated the Canadiens 5-1.
Evgeni Malkin added a goal and an assist, Sidney Crosby picked up his 26th of the season and Taylor Pyatt added a rare score as the Penguins rebounded from a dismal performance against lowly Florida on Monday by overwhelming Montreal.
"We definitely buckled down, especially defensively," Crosby said. "Didn't give them a ton and when we did (Fleury) made some great saves and we generated some good chances and capitalized on them. It was a good game to respond."
The Panthers snapped Pittsburgh's club-record 13-game home winning streak by outclassing the Eastern Conference leaders on both ends of the ice to send the Penguins to their worst home defeat in more than two years.
Coach Dan Bylsma called it the byproduct of a steady decline in play over the last three weeks and the rustiness that comes with the return of regulars like James Neal and Paul Martin to the lineup.
Whatever the problems were, they disappeared 48 hours later.
The Penguins were crisp in the neutral zone, responsible on defense and efficient on offense. They didn't pepper Price so much as they surgically picked him apart. All five goals were either the byproduct of deft passing or nifty stickwork.
Rene Bourque had his seventh goal for the Canadiens but Montreal spent most of the night fruitlessly chasing the Penguins. Carey Price stopped just 16 of 21 shots before being pulled late in the second period as the Canadians fell for the fourth time in six games.
"Pittsburgh is the best team in the conference, and they were the best team tonight," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "They played hard and they deserved success."
Jokinen, who tends to score in bunches, gave the Penguins the early lead after being on the receiving end of a bit of brilliance by Malkin. The Russian star took a pass from Matt Niskanen then darted around a flat-footed Montreal defender before feeding Jokinen with a centering pass that Jokinen easily slid by a diving Price 8:48 into the game.