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Jason Zucker's two-goals effort helps Penguins defeat Canadiens

AP

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jason Zucker is settling in nicely after two games with his new team.

Zucker scored his first two goals with the Penguins during a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.

“To me, it was about the win,” Zucker said. “It was good to get that winning feeling back and great to do it with these guys. It was a fun night.”

Zucker scored his 15th and 16th of the season in a 1:42 span, with Montreal’s Tomas Tatar getting a goal in between. Zucker provided 2-0 and 3-1 leads and has nine goals in 12 career games against the Canadiens.

“I thought his speed was more noticeable, and he had two real good goals,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re excited about having him and we think he’s only going to get better.”

Kris Letang scored a power-play goal against his hometown team and his 13th overall of the season, and Zach Aston-Reese added an empty-net goal.

Tristan Jarry made 34 saves for the Penguins, who moved within three points of first-place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has 10 wins in its last 14 games.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had three assists. He has points in nine of 11 games since returning from core muscle surgery on Jan. 14, including a current three-game point streak. He has five goals and 17 points in his last 11 games.

Crosby felt his newest linemate looked comfortable Friday.

“I thought he was flying,” Crosby said. “He created a lot and got a couple good goals for us.”

Tatar scored his 21st of the season for Montreal, which lost its third straight after winning nine of 12.

Carey Price made 24 saves for the Canadiens, who failed to score more than two goals in each of their past four games.

“That third goal, it really hurt us at the end of the second,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “We had just gotten ourselves back in the game with that power-play goal. Instead of being down 2-1, we’re down 3-1, so that was a pretty good dagger.”

The Penguins acquired Zucker from the Minnesota Wild on Monday for forward Alex Galchenyuk, defensive prospect Calen Addison and a conditional 2020 first-round pick.

Pittsburgh spent the previous five weeks looking to replace All-Star forward Jake Guentzel, who is out until late April after injuring his right shoulder on Dec. 30. Zucker’s arrival gives the Penguins’ top-six forward group a jolt and additional scoring depth as Pittsburgh prepares for another playoff push.

Zucker made his Penguins’ debut Tuesday against Tampa Bay skating on Crosby’s wing.

“It’s a winning culture and I felt that the day I got here,” Zucker said. “It was a different feeling in a very great way. I’m just excited to be part of it and hope I can help these guys win some games down the stretch.”

Pittsburgh scored the first goal of the game on the power play at 7:25 of the second period. Letang beat Price to the glove side with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot. Letang, who continued a four-game point streak, has 28 points in 35 career games against his hometown team.

Zucker scored his first goal at 18:00 of the second period. Crosby set it up with the Penguins off the rush. He passed from below the bottom of the left circle, through two defensemen to Zucker, who one-timed a shot off Price’s glove and into the net.

“That was unbelievable pass,” Zucker said. “That pass was incredible. I was glad I touched that one.”

Tatar scored a power-play goal for Montreal at 19:06 of the second, but Zucker answered for Pittsburgh 36 seconds later.

Zucker, with Canadiens’ D Brett Kulak on his back, chipped a pass from Marcus Pettersson over Price’s glove from the slot, giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead with 17.1 seconds left in the period.

Sullivan was impressed with Zucker’s second-period surge.

“You can see his ability to finish,” Sullivan said. “I just think Jason is going to get more comfortable every day he’s here. I think familiarity is going to help him.”

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