Penguins win 6-2; Crosby scores two breakaway goals
February 9, 2016 12:43 AM
Penguins' Carl Hagelin scored a goal against the Ducks in the first period.
Sidney Crosby celebrates with teammates his first of two goals against the Ducks at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Crosby battles for the puck in front of Ducks goalie John Gibson in the second period at the Consol Energy Center
The Ducks pushes the puck past Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the first period at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wasn’t so long ago that the Penguins seemed lucky to scratch out two goals in a game.
On good nights.
But what had been an eye-dropper offense for much of the season has cranked up to fire-hose levels lately, most recently in a 6-2 victory against Anaheim Monday night at Consol Energy Center.
It marked the sixth time in the past 10 games that the Penguins (27-18-7) have scored four or more goals, the seventh time this season — all in the past 20 games — that they generated five or more.
Not coincidentally, they have won six of their past seven games and moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Islanders.
“It’s fun to win,” center Sidney Crosby said. “Definitely fun when we’re scoring some more goals here … we’ll try to ride it as long as we can.”
That might be for a while, if Crosby continues to perform like a thoroughbred.
He had two goals and two assists against the Ducks, giving him 18 goals and 13 assists in 19 games since the NHL’s holiday break.
“With Sid going the way he is, it gives everybody confidence,” left winger Chris Kunitz said.
Gives a lot of guys points, too.
Kunitz, for example. He deflected a Kris Letang shot past Anaheim goalie John Gibson at 3:38 of the first period to put the Penguins in front to stay, then sprung Crosby on a breakaway that made it 6-2 at 3:35 of the third.
That gave Kunitz five goals and seven assists in his past nine games. Not a bad run for a guy who had five goals and eight assists in the previous 41 games.
Although Kunitz has come by his points honestly, carving out a living in the areas where traffic and elbows are high, he insisted that Crosby deserves most of the credit for the spike in his production.
It’s not that simple, though, because Crosby and Kunitz, along with linemate Patric Hornqvist, have developed a synergy that brings out the best in all their games.
“They’ve got a nice chemistry going,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
Still, it doesn’t hurt that Crosby has taken his game to a place few mortals can reach. Or even dream of reaching. He has an 11-game points streak and goals in seven in a row. He also has at least one goal in each of his past nine at Consol Energy Center, two shy of the home-ice record Mario Lemieux set in 1996.
“His game’s at another level right now,” Sullivan said.
So is that of Letang. He was guilty of a center-ice giveaway that led directly to Ryan Getzlaf’s breakaway goal at 19:10 of the first period, but only after his shots led to deflection goals for Kunitz and Conor Sheary.
“When Sid and [Letang] and the big guys are playing that well, it’s pretty fun to watch,” said defenseman Olli Maatta, who converted a Crosby feed on a three-on-one break for the Penguins’ final goal.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong showing as well, making 36 saves after subpar performances last week against Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
“He was himself,” Maatta said. “And he made those saves we needed.”
That’s what Fleury did for most of the season, before his two-game hiccup after the All-Star break.
“He was the main reason we picked up any points out of those first 20 games, when we weren’t playing very good hockey,” Kunitz said. “Now we’re putting some [goals] up. I’m sure he doesn’t mind when we score six.”
Probably isn’t surprised anymore when it happens, either.
Dave Molinari: dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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