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Jason Zucker scores twice as Penguins show Canadiens how an injured team wins

Jason Zucker scores twice as Penguins show Canadiens how an injured team wins
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Once the season is over, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson will no doubt use injuries as an excuse, and the team has been hit hard by them. But the Penguins have been hit even harder.

Heading into the game, the Penguins had lost 231 man-games to injury, while the Canadiens had lost 152. But the Penguins improved their record to 35-15-6 because they have depth, and the Canadiens dropped to 27-26-7 because they don’t.

It was the third straight loss for the Canadiens.

Penguins’ Jason Zucker scores his second goal of the period against Canadiens goaltender Carey Price during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena in Pittsburgh on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

Jason Zucker scored twice for the Penguins, while Kris Letang scored on a power play and Zach Aston-Reese added an empty-netter. Brendan Gallagher scored on the power play for his 20th goal of the season for the Canadiens, who will be back in action Saturday at the Bell Centre against the Dallas Stars (7 p.m., SNE, CITY, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).

Zucker must feel like he landed in hockey heaven on Monday when the Penguins acquired him from the Minnesota Wild and then put him on a line with Sidney Crosby. Zucker’s goals were his first in two games with the Penguins and Crosby assisted on both. Crosby also assisted on Letang’s goal.

“They’ve done well,” Canadiens coach Julien said about the Penguins after Friday’s morning skate. “Give them credit. Sid’s been out for quite a while, he’s come back and obviously makes a big difference. (Evgeni) Malkin really played well in his absence. There’s guys that step up and come in and do a good job. They lose (Jake) Guentzel, big loss there. They go out and make a trade (to acquire Zucker). They’re one-two really strong down the middle (with Crosby and Malkin). We all know that. Those kind of guys make everybody around them better, too, and that’s what you’re seeing from the Penguins.”

Crosby missed 28 games after muscle surgery to repair a sports hernia in November. The Penguins went 18-6-4 without their captain. Malkin posted 11-27-38 totals during that span, missing two games himself because of illness.

The Penguins are now 7-3-1 in the 11 games since Crosby returned and he has 5-12-17 totals during that span.

“We’re pretty fortunate we got one of the other best players in the game, too,” the Penguins’ Jack Johnson said about Malkin after practice Thursday. “We have a lot of other really good players. (Crosby) went out and we just told him we’d hold down the fort until he got back and we were able to do that.”

Penguins forward Nick Bjugstad missed his 46th game on Friday and defenceman Brian Dumoulin missed his 33rd, both with lower-body injuries. Forward Guentzel missed his 17th with an upper-body injury.
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