ST. LOUIS -- The last time the Penguins had a two-goal lead going into the third period, it was the beginning of a bad stretch of road.
Last night, they took things in a different direction.
They twice came back from one-goal deficits to put away the St. Louis Blues, 5-3, at Scottrade Center.
That broke a three-game losing streak and ended their four-game road trip at 1-2-1.
It was the start of the trip, a week earlier against the Rangers in New York, that the Penguins blew a two-goal lead and ended up losing, 3-2, in a shootout.
Last night, they were up, 4-2, going into the third period and spotted the Blues a goal before putting the game away.
"It's way nicer," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said of the difference in the games a week apart. "It feels good, but you expect it. You're up by two goals, you expect to finish it off. That's not being overconfident, but it's expecting a lot out of each other and knowing that if you have the lead, it's up to you. "
Following the game in New York, the team's offense -- shots, goals, scoring chances -- was often absent in losses at San Jose and Phoenix.
It resurfaced last night.
With Crosby, the team captain, back after missing part of a game with a hip injury, the Penguins got offense from up and down the lineup, some from players who had been in droughts or at least dry spots:
• Max Talbot (one point all season before the game) restored the two-goal lead, 5-3, when he lifted the puck past goaltender Chris Mason's glove at 16:27 of the third period, 40 seconds after the Blues had cut it to one when Patrik Berglund scored off his own rebound.
• Jordan Staal (no points in thee games and one in the previous seven) got his first goal of the season, an empty netter.
• Tyler Kennedy (no goals since the season opener) put in his own rebound after Mason stopped his backhand stuff attempt, giving the Penguins that two-goal lead, 4-2, at 12:59 of the second period, just 37 seconds after they made it 3-2.
• Petr Sykora (no points in four games), picked up an assist and played the third period with a tooth that was hanging by a thread after what he called a "sucker punch" by the Blues' David Backes.
• Alex Goligoski (no goals in seven games) got his third of the season at 6:03 of the second period to tie it, 2-2, as the Penguins erased a one-goal deficit for the second time in the game.
"It's big," Crosby said of getting offense from up and down the lineup. "You want to make sure your confidence level is there. I think we had it. ... In this league, if you let up a little bit, you lose momentum quickly and it's an uphill climb from there."
The team's three leading scorers, Evgeni Malkin, Crosby and Miroslav Satan, weren't left out.
Malkin had a goal, extending his point streak to eight games and giving the Penguins their first lead of the night, 3-2, at 12:22 of the second period off a soft drop pass from Sykora, who took a slick cross-ice backhand pass from Crosby.
Crosby had two assists. Satan opened the Penguins' scoring with his team-leading sixth goal.
"It's a nice way to finish a road trip," Satan said.
The hangover from New York, when the Penguins let up in the third period, followed the Penguins to the West Coast, where their offense wilted in losses at San Jose and Phoenix.
Knowing the impact the Rangers' comeback had on his team, coach Michel Therrien stayed away from the topic after the second period against St. Louis.
"We didn't want to mention that to the players," he said.
He didn't have to. They not only remembered the game, but they also used that memory.
"Hopefully, we finally learned from those kinds of games and it's going to be like [last night in the future], that we are able to protect the lead and when they score, we score and kind of keep our distance and control the game," Satan said.
The Penguins played without Ruslan Fedotenko, who missed his first game with an undisclosed injury after leaving the morning skate early, and made another lineup change with defenseman Darryl Sydor in the lineup in favor of Mark Eaton, who was a healthy scratch.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721. First Published November 2, 2008 4:15 AM