Canadiens hand Pens 11th straight loss
PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pittsburgh Penguins knew it might be grim
during this rebuilding season, especially after Mario Lemieux was
injured. Not even they guessed it might get record-setting, all-time-
Niklas Sundstrom and Saku Koivu scored after Montreal squandered a
two-goal lead and the Canadiens sent the Penguins to a club record-
tying 11th consecutive loss, 4-3 Tuesday night.
The Penguins, owners of a league-worst 11-36-5-3 record, will take
two losing streaks into their weeklong all-star break. They have lost
10 straight at home, putting them in position to tie the league
record of 11 - held by four clubs - next Tuesday against Boston.
No wonder coach Eddie Olczyk is running out of patience, even with a
young team that has few proven goal scorers or skilled defencemen.
He's taking a weekend trip to watch the Penguins' top farm team and
may return with a few new players.
``If you see four or five guys who deserve to come up, maybe that
will be the case. We have guys here who have plenty enough chances,''
What the Penguins don't have are many victories. They haven't won at
any venue since a 2-1 victory in Philadelphia on Jan. 12 or at Mellon
Arena since beating Chicago 1-0 on Dec. 29. The 11-game overall
losing streak ties that set from Jan. 22-Feb. 10, 1983.
Olczyk was especially angry the Penguins trailed 2-0 barely two
minutes into the game against the same team that embarrassed them 8-0
on Jan. 10 in Pittsburgh.
``Our preparation, or the lack of it, was not acceptable,'' he said.
Steve Begin and Mike Ribeiro scored to put Montreal ahead 2-0.
Eric Meloche, Konstantin Koltsov and Rico Fata scored in succession
to give the Penguins a rare home lead. The Penguins have been
outscored 49-14 during their home losing streak.
Koltsov and Fata scored with a man advantage - also an uncommon
occurrence for the league's worst home power-play unit. The Penguins
were 12-for-116 on the power play at home before scoring on two of
their first three chances.
But the Canadiens, who scored on their first two shots, shook off
their midgame lapse to win for only the third time in seven games.
Backup goalie Mathieu Garon made 32 saves for his second straight win.
``After (it was 2-0), we kind of got in a comfort zone and started
trying to make plays and be fancy,'' defenceman Stephane Quintal
said. ``But I thought we played well in the third, stayed composed
and played some good defensive hockey.''
After Fata gave Pittsburgh its only lead at 3-2 with his first goal
since Jan. 1, a 16-game span, Koivu tied it midway through the second
period with Meloche off for tripping. With Penguins goalie Sebastien
Caron occupied with Richard Zednik in front of the net, Koivu swept
in to tip Andrei Markov's shot from the point just after it deflected
Sundstrom scored what proved to be the decisive goal with just over
four minutes left in the period, sweeping the puck past Caron off a
long rebound. Caron was in net for three of the Penguins' four losses
to Montreal this season.
``We were aware we were going to have a tough game and they played
well, they came at us hard,'' coach Claude Julien said. ``If it
wasn't for the quick lead we got, it might have been a different
Montreal's Sheldon Souray, who had a club-record six points by a
defenceman (one goal, five assists) in the 8-0 game, assisted on
Begin's goal 30 seconds into the game. But he was given a game
misconduct following a mid-ice fight involving Pittsburgh's Dan Focht
midway through the first period.
Souray was tossed when the officials detected his jersey wasn't
properly tied down - a rule the league began enforcing a couple of
years ago so players couldn't quickly shed their gear during fights.
``It's the referee's decision and you don't have a choice,'' Julien
said. ``You've got to respect that and there's nothing you can do
after it's called.''
Losing Souray could have been big for Montreal; he has 10 of his 34
points against the Penguins. He went scoreless in nine straight games
after his career-best game in Pittsburgh, but now has a goal and an
assist in his last two games.
Notes: Montreal swept the four-game season series from the Penguins
for the second time in three seasons, outscoring them 20-5. ...
Atlanta (1999-2000 season) was the last NHL team to lose 11 straight
at home. ... The Penguins played without leading goal scorer Ryan
Malone, who became sick after the morning skate. ... Montreal has 10
goals in its last two games after scoring only five in its previous