The Penguins' Patric Hornqvist tips pass between the legs of New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid in the first period FRiday night at PPG Paint Arena.
Pittsburgh Penguins Phil Kessel scores in the first period against the Devils Friday at PPG Paint Arena.
Penguins right winger Patric Hornqvist battles his way past the Devils' Taylor Hall (left) and John Moore in the third period Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scores in the first period against the Devils Friday at PPG Paint Arena.
New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid makes a save on Sidney Crosby in the second period Friday at PPG Paints Arena.
Penguins goalie Matthew Murray against the Devils Friday at PPG Paint Arena.
New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid makes save on Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby in the second period Friday.
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby reacts after just missing on one timer against the Devils in the second period Friday at PPG Paint Arena.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby has played 56 regular-season games against New Jersey since he broke into the NHL.
He has been fairly productive against them, too, piling up 30 goals and 33 assists.
But there probably haven’t been many three-point nights along the way against the Devils, like the one he had in the Penguins’ 6-4 victory Friday night at PPG Paints Arena.
Mostly because there have been plenty of times when the teams were lucky to combine for three goals, let alone have one guy on either club be involved in that many.
“They don’t typically work out that way,” said Crosby, who scored two goals and assisted on another. “I remember playing early on, it was 1-0, 2-1. … Tonight was one of those games where you just have to find a way to outscore whoever you’re playing.”
Crosby’s output allowed him to tie Boston’s Brad Marchand for the league lead in goals (37) and lifted him to within two points of Marchand and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, who top the NHL with 79.
The Penguins pulled out of a 0-1-1 stretch, improved to 44-17-9 and reclaimed second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point behind Washington and one ahead of Columbus.
Right winger Patric Hornqvist rejoined their lineup after missing five games because of a concussion and earned an assist.
But the Penguins played without center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Ron Hainsey, both of whom joined the team’s lengthy list of injured players. With seven guys — all of whom play significant minutes — unavailable because of injuries, the Penguins are resigned to grinding out victories, rather than overwhelming an opponent with superior talent every now and then.
“That has to be our mindset,” Crosby said. “That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, at this time of year.
“If we can get desperate because of that, hopefully, it helps us down the stretch. Hopefully, we can get some healthy bodies back here shortly.”
Until that happens, they will need to get contributions from guys such as Carter Rowney, who had a goal — his first in the NHL — and an assist in five minutes and 10 seconds of playing time.
“He was another one of those guys who didn’t get a ton of minutes tonight,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “But the ones he played were important ones.
“When you get production out of your bottom-six [forwards], it certainly increases our chances of winning games.”
And Rowney’s first wasn’t just any goal. He got it at 5:17 of the third period to give the Penguins a 5-3 lead, and it became the game-winner when New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri scored his second of the game at 16:29.
“Whenever you can contribute to the team, to a win, that’s something you always want,” Rowney said.
One guy compelled to be more involved than might have been expected was goalie Matt Murray, who faced 36 shots. That’s a heavy workload for a game with the Devils.
“They’re usually pretty tight,” Murray said. “A structured team. They’re probably playing a little bit looser now, with nothing really to play for. That probably had something to do with it.
“And they have a lot of young guys who are trying to prove themselves, and those young guys played really hard and got a couple of goals for them.”
Of course, the Penguins have a guy who chipped in with a couple of goals, too.
Even when they’re forced to dress a diluted lineup, they still can send one of the game’s dominant forces over the boards.
“We have some difference-makers,” Sullivan said. “And it starts with Sid.”
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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