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PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sidney Crosby ignited a rally with a highlight-reel goal and became the third active player with 700 career assists in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night.

Crosby picked up his 24th goal of the season when he knocked a pass from Jake Guentzel out of the air, deflected it toward the front of his stick and smacked it by Carey Price to tie it at 3 late in the second period.

Derick Brassard put the Penguins in front to stay, beating Price early in the third period as Pittsburgh avoided dropping both games of a back-to-back against also-rans Montreal and the New York Islanders.

Guentzel had a goal and two assists. His 21st goal of the season came off an assist from Crosby, the 700th of Crosby’s career. Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the Penguins, who drew within two points of idle first-place Washington in the Metropolitan Division. Casey DeSmith finished with 27 saves.

Jonathan Drouin, Nikita Scherbak and Jacob de la Rose scored for the Canadiens, who have dropped nine of their last 10 games. Price made 34 stops in his first start in a month due to a concussion.

The Penguins are in the midst of a sluggish stretch in which they’ve mixed performances where they look very much like a team capable of winning a third straight Cup with clunkers like their 4-1 loss to the fading New York Islanders on Tuesday night. Head coach Mike Sullivan chastised his players for yet another lethargic start and lackluster play in front of goaltender Matt Murray in his return from a concussion.

Barely 24 hours later, the start was better after Malkin and Hornqvist gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead, but the play in their defensive zone was iffy at best. Drouin scored off the rush late in the first period to give the Canadiens momentum. Scherbak tied it 8:19 into the second with a gorgeous shorthanded deke by DeSmith. Montreal briefly took the lead when de la Rose followed his own shot, skating by three guys in black sweaters to tap in his own rebound.

Crosby, however, responded 36 seconds later with his 406th career goal, one unlike any of the 405 that came before it and the Penguins were on their way to their 15th win in their last 16 game at PPG Paints Arena.

NOTES: The game featured a rarity: two penalty shots. Price easily stopped Pittsburgh’s Derick Brassard in the first. DeSmith turned aside Brendan Gallagher in the second. … Pittsburgh is 9-6-2 in the second night of back-to-backs. … The Penguins scratched D Matt Hunwick and Fs Dominik Simon, Carter Rowney and Zach Aston-Reese. .. Montreal’s 24 road losses are a franchise record. … Linesman Steve Miller left late in the second period and missed several minutes after having his right hand gashed. Miller was back on the ice for the start of the third period.

UP NEXT

Canadiens: At Buffalo on Friday night. Montreal is 3-0 against the Sabres this season.

Penguins: Host New Jersey on Friday night. The Devils have won the first two meetings this season.

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