Iron Mike is making his mark.

Michel Therrien, fired by the Penguins four years ago only to watch Dan Bylsma lead them to the Stanley Cup about four months later, presides over the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Canadiens, a draft-lottery club last season.

The Penguins, losers of two in a row and three of five, are not surprised the man who brought them up — so to speak — is enjoying the high life again.

“We were a lot of young guys trying to find our games,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of Therrien, whose first decision upon replacing Eddie Olczyk midway through the 2005-06 season was to name Crosby, then 18, an alternate captain.

“We were all growing up together. He gave us opportunities and responsibility at a pretty young age to kind of fast-track that learning curve. We all learned a lot in a short period of time.”

Former Penguins center Jordan Staal cited the Penguins' “structure” under Therrien, who believed in transition stemming from a trapping system.

“He did a good job of keeping guys playing with that structure throughout the season then throughout the playoffs,” Staal said. “There wasn't a lot of cheat in our game. He made sure all our guys were on the same page.

“You look at Montreal right now, and it's the same thing.”

After leading what was the fourth-best turnaround in NHL history — the Penguins improved by 47 points in 2006-07 — and finishing two wins short of the Cup the next season, a two-month skid ended Therrien's Pittsburgh run Feb. 15, 2009. Therrien, then in Year 1 of a new three-year contract, never saw the firing coming that winter.



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