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Penguins give Bylsma first win

THE Pittsburgh Penguins held off the visiting Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Thursday to give newly appointed coach Dan Bylsma the first NHL victory of his career.

Bylsma replaced Michel Therrien, who was sacked on Sunday, and watched as the Penguins delivered a late goal to break a two-game losing streak in his second game at the helm.

Sergei Gonchar provided the game-winning score with his first goal of the year - a slap shot that beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price at 7:18 into the third period.

Bylsma, a former NHL forward, has emphasized the team will be "aggressive" under his tenure.

"I told the players that how we play the game is going to send a message," Bylsma told reporters. "Our guys were focused, energized and ready to go. I saw some good things."

NHL points leader Evgeni Malkin added his 27th goal of the year besides one assist as Pittsburgh improved to 28-25-6 on the year, moving to within four points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Center Tomas Plekanec led the way with two goals and one assist for the Canadiens, who fell again a night after suffering a 4-3 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals.

Montreal (30-22-7) has now lost three straight and 12 of its last 15 contests and is holding on to the sixth position in the East by one point. The Canadiens fell behind when Petr Sykora scored his 22nd goal of the season 10:27 into the game.

Plekanec, Pittsburgh's Miroslav Satan and Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Schneider traded goals midway through the second to tie 2-2.

The Penguins surged two goals ahead through Malkin and Maxime Talbot early in the third before Andrei Kostitsyn and Plekanec responded to even things once again with 13:29 remaining. The Canadiens were without Alex Kovalev for the second straight game after the All-Star forward was told by the team to stay home during the two-game road trip.

In San Jose, California, the Sharks earned their NHL-best 25th home victory with a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. Patrick Marleau scored his 33rd goal and Joe Thornton had two assists for the Sharks, who maintained their three-point lead atop the Western Conference standings.

Surging Los Angeles lost in regulation for just the third time in a month. The Sharks improved the NHL's best home record to 25-2-3 by holding Los Angeles scoreless in the final 36 minutes.

In Sunrise, Florida, goaltender Cristobal Huet stopped 31 shots for his third shutout of the season as Chicago beat Florida 4-0.

Ben Eaqer scored twice for Chicago, with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews also finding the net. Huet was making his fourth straight start for Chicago since first-choice goalie Nikolai Khabibulin sustained a lower-body injury.

The Blackhawks, who were playing away from home for the 10th time in 11 games, have won their past three and now have 18 road victories this season, one more than all of 2007-08.

In NHL action elsewhere, it was: Flyers 6, Sabres 3; Flames 3, Wild 2, OT; Devils 3, Lightning 2, SO; Stars 4, Oilers 2; Canucks 5, Senators 2; Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3, SO; Blues 2, Predators 1, OT; Coyotes 4, Thrashers 3, SO; and Hurricanes 6, Islanders 2.


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