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Paul Bryon helps Canadiens race past Penguins

Updated 29 minutes ago

Given how the Pittsburgh Penguins’ roster is constructed, it’s surprising when an opponent comes into PPG Paints Arena and has an apparent speed advantage.

On Saturday night, the Montreal Canadiens frequently made the home team look like it was skating in oatmeal.

Paul Byron, a 5-foot-9 speedster, led with the way with two goals and an assist as the Canadiens handed the Penguins a convincing 5-1 beating in the second game of the season.

The Canadiens jumped out to a 4-0 lead, and three of those four goals featured players in red, white and blue jerseys flying right by the black and gold.

In the first period, after a long Jack Johnson pass intended for Matt Cullen in the neutral zone didn’t connect, Byron flew right past Olli Maatta and steered a shot past goalie Matt Murray on the forehand.

Early in the second period, Max Domi, acquired from Arizona in an offseason trade, knifed between the defense pair of Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang to cause all kinds of problems on the forecheck. He retrieved a puck behind the net and centered to Byron for his second goal of the game from the left hash marks.

Later in the second, Joel Armia got a step ahead of a backchecking Evgeni Malkin on a two-on-two shorthanded break and stretched forward to knock a Byron pass past Murray.

The Penguins tried to start a rally late in the second period.

With less than three minutes left, Riley Sheahan cashed in the rebound of a Letang shot from the left point to make it 4-1.

The assist gave Letang 441 career points, one better than Paul Coffey for the top spot on the franchise’s all-time defenseman scoring list.

It went nowhere. Charles Hudon made it 5-1 Montreal on a wraparound midway through the third, giving Murray 11 goals against in his first two starts of the season.

Beyond that, the Penguins’ best chances at sparking a comeback died with a clank.

During a net-front scramble late in the first period, a Sidney Crosby shot hit defenseman Mike Reilly in the backside and a Jake Guentzel shot caught the post. In the second period, Phil Kessel hit iron with a shot from the slot. Guentzel hit a second post in the third.

During an offseason that included a long standoff with captain Max Pacioretty that culminated in his trade to the Vegas Golden Knights, the general consensus among the hockey punditry was that the Canadiens were in for a long year.

After they showed some high-end speed in a season-opening 3-2 overtime loss to Atlantic Division co-favorite Toronto, though, sentiment seemed to be building that the Habs might not be sitting ducks this year after all.

Saturday night’s result surely provided some more evidence in that direction.

The Canadiens scored first and never trailed.

Midway through the first period, a Johnson clearing bid pinballed around just outside the offensive blue line, sending Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher off on a two-on-one. Tatar’s shot from the right side was blocked by Maatta, but it caromed directly to Gallagher on the left side to make it 1-0.

Playing with the lead agreed with goalie Carey Price, who had a mostly quiet evening in the Montreal crease.

For all his career achievements, Price hasn’t fared extraordinarily well against the Penguins, carrying an 11-12-4 record and .905 save percentage into the game. He had no such issues Saturday night.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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