MONTREAL (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins got a winning effort from a bunch of unexpected sources in their first game without reigning MVP Sidney Crosby.
If they can keep that up during their captain's extended injury absence, the Penguins might turn out just fine.
Dany Sabourin made 31 saves for his second shutout, Jeff Taffe scored in the first period, and Pittsburgh beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-0 Saturday night.
Sabourin, who got his first career shutout in a 5-0 win in New Jersey on Nov. 5, made his first appearance since Dec. 21 one night after Ty Conklin took his first regulation loss in his 11th straight start.
"He's been working really hard and it's been a week and a half that he's been asking me when he was going to get back in, so he wanted to play bad," Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche said. "He had to come up with a big game, and he did."
|The Penguins Evgeni Malkin celebrates after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period on Saturday. Pittsburgh won the game 2-0. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)|
Pittsburgh's 3-0 loss Friday to Tampa Bay was particularly costly because Crosby sustained a high ankle sprain that will almost certainly sideline him for next weekend's All-Star game in Atlanta and may keep him out of action for several weeks.
Crosby didn't travel with the team and had his sprained and swollen right ankle re-examined Saturday by the team's medical staff. No prognosis for the defending NHL scoring champion's return will be made until the swelling subsides.
The Penguins were 0-2-2 in the four previous games Crosby had missed since he began his NHL career at the start of the 2005-06 season.
"You lose the best player in the league, you've still got to be able to go out and win games and we're going to have to do it for a month, who knows, and we've got to stay in the playoff race," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "We want to get as high a seed as we can and tonight is the first step in proving that we're a good hockey team without him."
Taffe scored his second goal of the season 6:14 in when he beat Cristobal Huet on a setup by Penguins enforcer Georges Laraque.
"When I'm down low I'm confident that I can find the open man," said Laraque, who has three goals and seven assists in 39 games.
Evgeni Malkin put a backhand into an empty net with 12.4 seconds remaining.
Montreal, which returned from a 3-1 road trip, fell to 8-8-5 at home.
"We definitely didn't have 20 guys who were ready to play," Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. "You could see that our passing and our strength on the puck wasn't there, our skating was a little off - the whole thing around our game was a little off, which wasn't the case on the road."
Huet stopped 23 shots.
Penguins right wing Colby Armstrong left the game just 14 seconds in with a bruised hip and didn't return. Armstrong slammed into the boards in the right corner after he was checked by Canadiens defenseman Roman Hamrlik shortly after the opening faceoff.
Laraque took a foolish penalty in the offensive zone 1:55 in when he elbowed Francis Bouillon in the head. He atoned for his transgression soon after, providing Pittsburgh with an offensive spark from an unexpected source.
Laraque was treated like Wayne Gretzky by Canadiens defenders as he was left untouched while he held the puck behind the net. He carried it out the right side and passed to Taffe, who beat Huet 6:14 into the game for what stood up as the winning goal.
"He's got a lot more offensive firepower than most people think," Taffe said. "He sees the ice tremendously so it's always fun playing with him. You just get him the puck and he thinks he's Wayne Gretzky behind the net most of the time, but he does a great job."
Notes: Crosby sat out one game in 2005-06 with the flu and three others last season with a sore groin. ... Malkin hit the left post on a long shot at the empty net moments before his goal.