PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t cooled off yet.
Crosby had two goals and an assist to give him 11 points three games, and the Penguins won for the sixth time in seven games by beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Thursday night.
Crosby scored late in the first period, added an empty-net goal, and assisted on Bill Guerin’s winning goal with 12:45 left in regulation to give him six goals and five assists in the past three games – all victories.
“He’s going great right now,” Guerin said. “And that’s obviously great for our team.”
Pittsburgh has won eight of 10 and five consecutive at home and is tied with the Washington Capitals for the most points (40) in the Eastern Conference.
“I think our team is getting better as the season goes on,” Guerin said, “and hopefully we’re just getting going.”
T.J. Galiardi scored for the second straight game for Colorado, which has only one win in its past six and three victories in 13 games.
Guerin scored one second after a 5-on-3 power play expired. Crosby fed a pass to him from above the right circle to inside the left circle. Guerin one-timed a shot between the post and goalie Peter Budaj, who stretched to his right.
“I was thinking shot and then I still had my eye up and I saw Billy kind of getting himself into a position there off to the side,” Crosby said. “So I just kind of had my eye on him a little bit and he did good job of getting open and finishing the play.”
Crosby scored his 18th of the season with 6.1 seconds to play in the first period on a pretty passing play with Mike Rupp. Rupp, who had a hat trick Monday in New York against the Rangers, broke in on a quick-developing 2-on-1 with Crosby and gave him the puck at the last moment for a tap-in.
“Good players like that are going to make nice plays,” said Budaj, who played because starter Craig Anderson injured his neck Wednesday night in a loss at Florida. “Give credit to them, they made a couple of nice plays on the goals they scored. That was the bottom line.”
Crosby’s seventh goal in three games was scored with 30 seconds to play – 19 seconds after Jordan Staal also had an empty-netter.
Evgeni Malkin had three assists for the Penguins. He and Staal each made passes on Crosby’s empty-net goal.
Crosby didn’t score his 19th goal until Jan. 30 last season.
Galiardi scored 5:02 into the game, taking a pass during a power play from Darcy Tucker in the slot. Galiardi deflected the puck on a perfect angle just off the far post and past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Galiardi, who had only one goal this season before Wednesday, appeared to score his third in two days 8:14 into the second. But an official blew the whistle before the puck crossed the goal line – even though television replays showed Fleury never had control of the puck underneath him.
“It looked like it, but you know, things happen quick out there, and they blew the whistle,” Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. “If you’re asking me, sure, I thought it was a goal, for sure. But he didn’t call it or see it that way.”
Colorado did not get into town until 3 a.m. Thursday after flying in Florida, and the Avalanche appeared to get tired. The Avalanche was outshot 14-1 in the third after holding an advantage in shots heading into the period.
“We were right in that game,” Sacco said. “We played two good periods, but when you get one shot in the third, it’s going to be tough to manufacture a win.
“We had some chances and we didn’t capitalize on them during the first couple periods.”
NOTES: Avalanche RW Milan Hejduk returned after missing three games due to a knee injury. … The Penguins became the first NHL team to reach 20 wins. … Colorado lost on consecutive nights to Eastern Conference teams after beginning the season 6-0 outside the West. … Pittsburgh improved to 16-2 when having at least 30 shots. … Fleury, who has won six straight starts, leads the NHL with 17 victories.