Quick start boosts Penguins as Crosby's two goals extend win streak
Share with others:
That's for spent nails and old cars.
The Penguins had no tarnish to scrape away last night despite coming off their longest respite of the season, one that stretched to last Saturday night.
- Matchup: Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7:08 p.m. today, Air Canada Centre.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
- Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins; Andrew Raycroft for Maple Leafs.
- Penguins: Are 1-1 vs. Maple Leafs this season, with each team winning on road. ... Are 8-8-2 at Toronto since start of 1996-97 season. ... F Evgeni Malkin has 14 points in six career games vs. Toronto.
- Maple Leafs: Had lost four in row and seven of eight before 4-2 win Thursday against Atlanta. ... Six OT losses are most in NHL. ... Team goals-against average of 3.36 is second highest in league.
- Hidden stat: The last time Toronto won two in a row was Oct. 25-27.
Over the first four minutes of the game against Dallas at Mellon Arena, the Penguins piled up a couple goals and a fight. That set the tone for what became a 4-1 win over the Stars.
"You don't know how it's going to be," Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "It was good to get the first couple there, get us on a roll. That was going to be a big part, just get through that first period."
Crosby had no trouble getting through the first, second or third periods, through traffic or through whatever the Stars threw at him. He had two goals, one in the first half-minute of the game, on a game-high eight shots and produced other scoring chances on slick moves, including a couple of spin-a-ramas and something in the third period that might be called a leaping lizard.
"I felt pretty good," Crosby said. "I thought we got some good practices in, and I tried to take advantage of it."
The six days between games is the longest stretch of the season.
"It was a little bit weird at first to play again," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 22 of Dallas' 23 shots.
In case they or anyone else couldn't remember far enough back, the win was the Penguins' third in a row, matching their best string of the season, and pulled them to .500 at 11-11-2. The last time they had as many wins as losses was Nov. 7, when they were 7-7-1.
It might have been foreboding that the players complained to each other and to coach Michel Therrien that they had their worst pregame warmup, but apparently that's where any effects of the layoff ended.
The game figured to have a good chance to turn on special teams, considering Dallas entered the game fourth in the NHL on power play, 23.4 percent, and fifth in penalty killing at 86.8 percent. The Penguins were seventh on the power play, 20.9 percent, and 19th in penalty killing, 80.9 percent.
That didn't go according to plan.
Instead, the Penguins killed the three Stars power plays and didn't get a power play of their own until 16:38 of the third period, followed by another at 18:34. All five goals in the game were at even strength.
"We killed penalties at crucial times during the game," Therrien said.
Dallas, which entered the game as the Pacific Division leader, had won six in a row and hadn't given up more than two goals in any of those games before its 4-2 loss at New Jersey Wednesday.
Crosby's first-shift goal came at 24 seconds. He swooped down the right side of the Dallas end toward the corner, then -- with the Stars looking for him to continue behind the net -- cut over to the net and slipped the puck past the near goalpost and goaltender Mike Smith.
"I just tried to cut a little bit early and jam it," Crosby said.
Most of the players had yet to hit the ice, and the Penguins already had answered the rust question.
"The first shift, that gives you some momentum," Therrien said.
Just 1:29 later, the Penguins earned points of a different type when winger Georges Laraque pummeled Stars winger Krystopher Barch in a short, one-sided fight.
After the morning skate, Barch was in the hallway outside the visitors' locker room giving a teammate tips on fighting, but he was not in Laraque's league in the real event.
"Georges did a great job in his fight," Penguins forward Jordan Staal said. "That always helps a lot, too."
At 3:38, Tyler Kennedy made it 2-0 for the Penguins. He and Staal converged on Stars center Jeff Halpern in the corner to Smith's right and took the puck off Halpern. Kennedy then turned and swept the puck past Smith from the circle.
That gave the Penguins two goals on their first four shots.
Dallas climbed to within a goal, 2-1, on center Mike Ribeiro's slap shot at 5:31 of the second period.
He carried the puck to near the top of the right circle, hesitated to coax defenseman Darryl Sydor into backing off slightly, then let loose. It was the 10th goal for Ribeiro, who already led the NHL in shooting percentage at 33.3.
Sydor figured in on the next goal as the Penguins took back their two-goal lead. Crosby deposited a rebound of Sydor's shot from the right point at 8:34 to make it 3-1.
Evgeni Malkin put it out of reach at 14:28 of the third period.
First Published December 1, 2007 12:00 am