In the event, Montreal knotted matters before the game was two minutes old when Travis Moen gathered a loose puck in the Pittsburgh end as Andrei Kostitsyn foraged on the fore-check and ripped a wrister high past Fleury’s catching glove.
The brawny Saskatchewan native suddenly has eight goals on the season.
Price held his team in it during a Pittsburgh power-play, making a save on James Neal that can fairly be described as miraculous - he also denied Malkin and Kris Letang on the same man-advantage.
Having survived, the Habs went ahead 2-1 on Pacioretty’s 10th of the season, the big winger converted a nifty pass from David Desharnais, who had captured a generous Fleury rebound of a Cole shot.
Again, the goal went in high on Fleury’s glove side.
The Habs should have made it 3-1 on the power-play but Fleury stoned Cole in the crease.
The Penguins thought they’d tied the game in the opening 90 seconds of the second period when Crosby took the puck away from Montreal’s Josh Gorges and slid a pass over to Chris Kunitz, who deflected the puck home.
But the officials waved the goal off - one replay angle suggested Kunitz punched the puck in with his hands, although the Pens will argue the evidence wasn’t exactly iron-clad that it didn’t go off his thigh.
Montreal made it 3-1 midway through the second when his shot beat Fleury high on the glove side, rang off the post and bounced in off the netminder’s back.
It tends to be like that for Fleury when he plays the Habs - just look at the heavily-favoured Pens’ seven-game playoff exit against Montreal in 2010.
Pascal Dupuis would grab a goal back for Pittsburgh before the end of the second - though Crosby made the play by outmuscling the Montreal defence and screened Price as Dupuis’ wicked turnaround slapshot went off the post and in.
Montreal had a chance to make it 4-2, but defenceman P.K. Subban opted to try and sell an interference call on a two-on-one rather than take the puck strongly to the Pittsburgh net.
There were several instances where Subban sought to draw the officials’ attention to slights against him - it’s the sort of thing that has made him few friends in opposing dressing rooms.
In the third, Montreal had another chance to kill off the game, but Yannick Weber’s power-play backhander hit iron.
On the same power-play, Kunitz had his second goal of the night disallowed as he broke in on a short-handed breakaway - this was a much easier call for the referee, the winger kicked Price into the net.
Later in the frame with the teams four-on-four, Price made a crucial save on James Neal, snagging his quick shot on a magical backhand pass from - who else - Crosby.
Jordan Staal would tied the game with 4:30 left when Malkin sprang the big centre on a breakaway - he coolly out-waited Price and flipped a forehand into the roof of the net.
The stage was set for the dramatic finish.