Amid the unpredictable chain of events that occur each spring in playoff hockey, there usually are two certainties: Pittsburgh will lose any series opener; Montreal will win any overtime game.

Despite 78 minutes and 43 seconds of often unpredictable play, an overtime penalty shot and a strategic gamble by Montreal, tradition stood firm.The Canadiens withstood Stu Barnes' tying goal late in the third period and a missed overtime penalty shot to beat the Penguins 3-2 Thursday night in their Eastern Conference series opener. Game 2 will be Saturday night.

Benoit Brunet won it with a slap shot at 18:43 of the extra period, assuring the Canadiens an NHL-record 14th consecutive overtime playoff victory.

"That's pretty amazing - 14 in a row," center Vincent Damphousse said. "I was aware of that, and that's why we felt pretty good going into overtime.

But they wouldn't have won if Penguins rookie Alexei Morozov's backhander hadn't clanged off the right post 1:44 into overtime. It was only the third playoff penalty shot - and second miss - in Penguins history.

Now the Penguins are fighting history again; they've won only twice in the last six series in which they lost Game 1.

"That's a tough, tough way to lose," Barnes said after Pittsburgh lost for the seventh time in its last nine playoff series openers. "To play that well and not win is tough."

Coach Kevin Constantine could pick from anyone on the ice to take the penalty shot, which resulted from defenseman Patrice Brisebois intentionally knocking the net off its moorings. Martin Straka initially lined up, but Constantine called him back and selected Morozov instead.

"It was a tough call, and it was my call," Constantine said. "Alexei's been great all year in practice doing those things. He's awesome at that stuff in practice."

Tonight, it's Buffalo at Philadelphia, Ottawa at New Jersey, Boston at Washington, San Jose at Dallas, Phoenix at Detroit and Edmonton at Colorado. The Sabres, Senators, Capitals, Stars, Red Wings and Oilers each lead their series 1-0.

BLUES 8, KINGS 3: At St. Louis, Geoff Courtnall had a goal and five assists for a team-record six points. Besides breaking the points record by one, he also tied the franchise assist record set by Doug Gilmour in 1986 against Minnesota.

Mario Lemieux was the last player with six points in a postseason game. He did it in Pittsburgh's 6-4 victory over Washington on April 23, 1992.

Jim Campbell, Pierre Turgeon and Pavol Demitra each scored twice, and Brett Hull had a goal and three assists for the Blues.

The Blues have had eight goals twice in the playoffs, against Vancouver in 1995 and Winnipeg in 1982. They also tied a team record with four second-period goals, sending a sellout crowd of 20,120 into a towel-waving frenzy.