Crosby, Penguins defeat Hurricanes in shootout, 5-4

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It was, in a lot of ways, the first quarter of the Penguins' season in microcosm.

Sidney Crosby was sensational. Leads were blown. Comebacks were staged. Mistakes were made.

"It had a little bit of everything," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said.

More than a few times during the past six weeks, those ingredients didn't add up to two points for the Penguins.

On this occasion, however, they did, as the Penguins defeated Carolina, 5-4, in a shootout at Consol Energy Center Friday night to finish the quarter with an 11-8-2 record.

Crosby had a goal and three assists to push his points total to 33, one fewer than NHL leader Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. His output matched Stamkos' during the Lightning's 8-7 victory in Philadelphia Thursday.

Crosby dismissed that as "a coincidence," but it hardly would be out of character for him to respond that way to a challenge posed by someone with whom he is competing. He had a hand in every Penguins' goal, including the most controversial one.

With the score tied, 3-3, as the middle of the third period approached, Chris Kunitz put the puck past Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters from the front edge of the crease, but the on-ice ruling appeared to be that the goal did not count because play had been blown dead before he scored.

"I'm not sure the referee was wrong," Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. "Actually, I'm pretty sure he was right, because he had it as no goal."

Indeed, televised replays accompanied by audio seemed to back that up -- the puck was not visible across the goal line until after the whistle had been blown to stop play -- but, after examining the evidence, the NHL war room in Toronto concluded that the goal, which came at 9:19, should count.

"I knew the puck was between my pads somewhere, but that's totally out of our control," Peters said. "Obviously, they reviewed it and feel they got the call right."

Kunitz allowed that he was " pretty surprised" at the decision, if only because "I've had a knack of some of them not coming in."

That shaped up as the winner until Jussi Jokinen forced overtime when, with Peters replaced by an extra attacker, he took a pass from Eric Staal and threw it past Fleury from inside the right circle at 19:08.

That wasn't the Penguins' most troubling defensive sequence of the game, but trying to decide what was could become someone's life work. There were plenty of candidates from which to choose.

"We weren't real, real solid in the defensive zone tonight," Bylsma said. "That's not the kind of game defensively we want to play.

"We're fortunate to have a four-point night from Sid and having [Kunitz] getting two goals, a power-play goal, [Evgeni Malkin] getting his 400th point and getting that thing in a shootout."

They also got some pretty good work from Fleury, who finished with 30 saves and denied Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen in the shootout, while Kris Letang and Crosby scored for the Penguins.

Fleury's evening began ominously when Brandon Sutter scored on Carolina's first shot, 42 seconds after the opening faceoff, but Kunitz pulled the Penguins even at 8:55 off a feed from Malkin.

The second assist on Kunitz's goal went to Crosby, who also was in on Tyler Kennedy's go-ahead goal at 11:15. He fed a cross-crease pass to Kennedy, who put the puck into an open net for his fourth.

Carolina pulled even on a Patrick Dwyer goal at 15:46, but Crosby put the Penguins back in front at 8:15 of the second by golfing in a Zbynek Michalek rebound from the slot for his 14th.

Jokinen got that one back for the Hurricanes at 11:19 and, after the controversial goal by Kunitz, the Penguins seemed to be in control until Jokinen converted an Eric Staal feed at 19:08 to put the game into overtime.

"We would have liked to finish that one off in regulation, but they kept coming hard," Crosby said.

True enough, but this was the second time in the past three games the Penguins surrendered a tying goal as regulation was winding down.

"We had a letdown again, right at the end," Kunitz said. "We have to figure some things out."

No doubt. And, like so much in the first quarter of their season, very little about this game was easy. Not that it detracted from their satisfaction at ending up with two points.

"We finally got the win," Fleury said. "That's what matters.".

Dave Molinari: .


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