PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The way Sidney Crosby is producing goals, a two-point game almost is a disappointment.
Crosby scored a goal and set up another, and the Pittsburgh Penguins matched the second-longest winning streak in franchise history, winning their 10th in a row by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Monday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury, 11-0-1 in his last 12 starts, made 27 saves as the Penguins equalled a 10-game winning streak from Jan. 28-Feb. 15, 1999. Their only longer streak was an NHL-record, 17-game run from March 9-April 10, 1993, the season they failed to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup title.
“It builds character, and it creates a good atmosphere in our locker room,” said Chris Kunitz, who also had a goal and an assist. “Everyone’s excited to be at the rink. It’s fun to be around when you’re winning and having success. Right now, you’ve got to ride it.”
Just like Crosby is. He failed to get a hat trick for the third consecutive home game, but has nine goals in five games and six in three games. He leads the NHL with 24 goals and 24 assists for 48 points.
“I don’t know if you get to appreciate how really quick he is,” New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg said. “He was behind both of their goals and probably was the difference.”
Crosby broke a 1-all tie in the second period, following up shots from the points by Alex Goligoski and Kunitz. Goligoski’s shot deflected to Crosby to the left of Hedberg, and his shot banked off defenceman Colin White’s stick and past the goalie.
“I just tried to get off to the side of the net and hoped something bounced over,” Crosby said. “Chris tied up his guy in front and the rebound was able to come over there. It made it in there, and I was happy to see it go in.”
Crosby’s 16-game scoring streak (18 goals, 15 assists) is the league’s longest this season and ties for the second longest of his career. He had a 19-game streak from Oct. 6-Nov. 17, 2007, but he already has three more points during this run.
The Penguins won their sixth in a row at home despite going 0-for-6 on the power play, including a two-man advantage that lasted 34 seconds early in the third period.
Pittsburgh started the season 6-7-1, yet now leads the NHL with 40 points.
“It feels a little more relaxed,” Fleury said. “Everyone is enjoying it. It was tough at the beginning, so it’s nice to get some wins.”
New Jersey (8-17-2) lost its fourth in five games despite Hedberg’s 32 saves. The Devils won the Atlantic Division three of the last four seasons, but now trail only the New York Islanders in the overall standings.
“We have to think about getting wins. We know where we are,” coach John MacLean said. “You have to get one, and then two, and go from there.”
Crosby missed a good chance for a second goal when his wrist shot struck the right post 7:30 into the third period. Crosby took a hooking penalty three minutes later, but New Jersey didn’t score and finished 1-for-4 on the power play.
Crosby set up Pittsburgh’s first goal, sailing a pass from along the left-wing boards to Kunitz for a one-timer from the edge of the right circle at 15:41 of the first.
New Jersey, winless in six consecutive road games, had taken a 1-0 lead 1:21 before that on Brian Rolston’s first goal in 10 games.
With Pittsburgh’s Pascal Dupuis off for hooking, Patrik Elias’ shot from the right point deflected off Rolston’s left wrist and fell to his feet. Rolston lifted the puck inside the near post, and then clutched at his wrist as he celebrated his second goal.
“We did some good things, but we did enough bad things that we didn’t win again,” Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said.
NOTES: Hedberg made his seventh consecutive start for the injured Martin Brodeur (bruised right elbow). Brodeur dressed as the backup. … Fleury’s nine-game winning streak is his longest. … Crosby played in his 400th career game. … Penguins F Evgeni Malkin (knee) sat out a second successive game. … New Jersey is 0-2 against the Penguins after going 6-0 against them last season, holding them to five goals. … Pittsburgh is 12-0-1 since giving up five goals in the third period of a 7-4 loss to Boston on Nov.10, its last loss in regulation. … New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk is a minus-17 this season.