- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2009

MONTREAL (AP) - Maxime Talbot and Kris Letang scored short-handed goals 55 seconds apart midway through the third period to send the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Evgeni Malkin, poised to claim his first NHL scoring title, increased his point total to 113 with his 35th goal 1:09 into the game for Pittsburgh. The Penguins will face Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs, with home-ice advantage to be determined Sunday when the Flyers host the New York Rangers. The teams are tied with 99 points, but Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker because it has one more victory.

Roman Hamrlik scored for Montreal, which will be the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and face top-seeded Boston in the postseason. The Canadiens’ loss also set up a playoff matchup between No. 2 Washington and the No. 7 Rangers.

Pittsburgh’s third straight victory sealed the Carolina Hurricanes into sixth place and created a first-round series between them and the No. 3 New Jersey Devils.

Talbot finished off a 2-on-1 with Pascal Dupuis 9:46 into the third to put Pittsburgh up 3-1. Letang had beaten Carey Price with a slap shot from the left side at 10:41 with one second remaining in a penalty to Brooks Orpik.

Malkin beat Price from the edge of the crease when he put a rebound of Sergei Gonchar’s shot through the goalie’s legs before he could clear the puck.

Pittsburgh nearly took a two-goal lead while killing a penalty later in the period when Talbot batted a high rebound of Dupuis’ shot into the net.

Referee Eric Furlatt immediately waved off the goal, and a lengthy video review upheld his ruling that Talbot had made contact with the puck above the level of the crossbar.

Hamrlik drew Montreal even with his sixth goal at 17:29 when his shot from the left point evaded Marc-Andre Fleury.

Price had the sold-out crowd chanting, “Carey! Carey!” late in the second period after he lunged to his left to make a spectacular glove save on Matt Cooke’s shot after the Penguins forward received a pass from Talbot on a 2-on-1 break.

Price made a similar stop on Bill Guerin moments later. Pittsburgh enjoyed a 34-13 shots advantage through the first two periods, including a 17-6 margin in the opening frame.

The Canadiens, who are celebrating their 100th season, sold out each of their 41 home games to reach a total attendance of 872,193 for a fourth straight season.

Notes:@ Canadiens D Andrei Markov missed his third straight game because of a lower body injury sustained one week earlier. … LW Alex Tanguay, LW Sergei Kostitsyn, D Patrice Brisebois and D Ryan O’Byrne did not dress for Montreal. … Pittsburgh had won the season series from Montreal three straight times, but settled for a split this season (2-2). … The Penguins are 20-19-2 in season finales.

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