TORONTO — Jeff Petry scored the winner in the third period as the Montreal Canadiens fought back from a 3-1 deficit to down the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Wednesday and grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five qualifying round series.
Shea Weber added a goal and two assists for Montreal, while Paul Byron, with a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Drouin provided the rest of the offence.
Carey Price stopped 30 shots for the Canadiens — the 12th seed in the Eastern Conference as part of the NHL’s 24-team restart to its pandemic-delayed season — who will look to close out a stunning upset Friday in Game 4 and advance to the normal 16-slot playoff bracket. Ben Chiarot added two assists for Montreal.
Patric Hornqvist, Jason Zucker and Teddy Blueger replied for No. 5 Pittsburgh, which got 27 saves from Matt Murray.
Canadiens winger Brendan Gallagher suited up after briefly leaving the Penguins’ 3-1 victory in Game 2, but was clearly labouring at times with an undisclosed lower-body injury.
Tied 3-3 through 40 minutes Wednesday, Montreal’s power play that was 0-for-9 in the series came agonizingly close when Joel Armia’s one-timer pinballed around the crease.
But the Canadiens kept up the pressure, and Petry, who provided the overtime winner in Game 1, roofed a shot past Murray’s ear from a sharp angle at 5:33 of the third shortly after the man advantage expired.
The Penguins, who had the seventh-best record in the NHL when the season was suspended in mid-March, pushed as the period wore on, with Price denying Kris Letang down low.
Pittsburgh went on the power play with 3:32 left in regulation, but Price handled Sidney Crosby’s one-timer comfortably without giving up a rebound on the only shot against.
The Penguins pulled Murray and continued to press, but weren’t able to get the equalizer.
Pittsburgh led 2-1 after the first, and doubled that advantage at 5:35 of the second when Brandon Tanev beat Victor Mette to a loose puck down the wing. Zach Aston-Reese’s effort from the slot was stopped by Price, but Blueger poked the rebound home.
Drouin got that one back for Montreal at 10:13 when he redirected Chiarot’s point shot past Murray.
The Canadiens’ power play has yet to score in the series, but Byron’s equalizer at 15:50 came seconds after Malkin exited the penalty box when he deftly manoeuvred Nick Suzuki’s rebound from his skate to his stick and snuck a second-effort wraparound just over the goal line.
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Montreal, which sat 24th in the overall standings when play was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, jumped in front at 4:57 of the first period when Weber fired his third shot of a chaotic sequence by a down-and-out Murray.
The Penguins challenged for goalie interference on Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen, but the call stood after video review, resulting in a Pittsburgh minor penalty.
The Canadiens couldn’t connect on that man advantage, and Price, who led Montreal to that overtime victory in Game 1 and kept his team within striking distance two nights later, was soon under fire at the other end.
Already down a man, Weber buried Hornqvist in the corner and was going to be assessed a penalty. Montreal’s captain seemed to be waiting for Malkin to give the puck away for a 5-on-3, but he instead whipped a cross-ice pass to Hornqvist, who made no mistake at 8:40.
Pittsburgh stayed on the power play with Weber now in the box, and Zucker made it 2-1 just 59 seconds later when Bryan Rust delivered a sneaky feed in the slot for the winger to rip a shot upstairs.
Notes: Pittsburgh centre Jared McCann sat out in favour of Sam Lafferty. … The Canadiens made one lineup change with Jake Evans swapping in for Jordan Weal on the fourth line. Evans was drilled into the boards by Tanev in the second period and did not return.