The Canadiens, playing in their second game in as many days, however, got a good performance in the end from their backup goaltender as he filled in for an injured Olympic gold medalist.
“I would like to have some goals back, but we scored five goals against Pittsburgh,” Budaj said. “We have to learn from the mistakes we made. We have to keep going and getting better.”
Daniel Briere scored twice, once on the power play, and Max Pacioretty also scored with the man advantage, his 27th of the year. Brendan Gallagher netted his 15th for the Canadiens and Alexei Emelin also scored his second of the season.
Budaj, who stopped 27 shots, made his second straight start after turning aside 28 shots during an overtime loss one day earlier against Detroit.
“You can tell the bench guys wanted to battle back for him because he certainly worked hard,” Therrien said.
He filled in for Price, who was named the top goaltender at the Olympic games after going 5-0 with a 0.59 goals-against average and two shutouts, leading Team Canada to a gold medal. Price, who aggravated a lower-body injury sustained in Sochi, will be re-evaluated Friday.
“Credit to the team because they stuck with it, they battled for me and we got the two points,” Budaj said.
Crosby, who leads the NHL with 80 points, scored his 29th and added an assist. Neal scored his 21st for his 300th career point and also had an assist, while Malkin provided two assists, both extending six-game point streaks.
Olli Maatta scored his seventh of the season on the power play and had an assist, while Brandon Sutter had a short-handed goal, his 10th of the year. Deryk Engelland also scored his career-high fifth goal.
“We worked hard,” Crosby said. “It was a little sloppy, and a lot of special teams. … Probably a tough first one for everybody to get into.”