PITTSBURGH – Superstitious Sidney Crosby didn’t want to jinx his shot at a hat trick after his first two goals. Perhaps for the same reason, he isn’t willing to acknowledge he’s morphing into a top pure goal-scorer.
Crosby had his third career hat trick and the Pittsburgh Penguins became the first NHL team to reach 10 victories this season, snapping the Montreal Canadiens’ four-game winning streak with a 6-1 victory Wednesday night. A couple of hours later, Colorado also reached 10 wins, beating Calgary 3-2.
Crosby, tied for fourth in the NHL with nine goals, had his third multiple-goal game in 12 starts this season for Pittsburgh (10-2-0).
“When you get three goals in a game, that kind of changes the look of your (season) numbers early on,” said Crosby, who has 36 goals in his past 55 games (including the playoffs). “I’m trying to shoot the puck when I get chances and trying to not pass up good shots, but it’s just been a matter of the puck going in early on.”
Chris Kunitz also scored and assisted on all three of Crosby’s goals. Mike Rupp and Alex Goligoski added goals, and Bill Guerin had three assists.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves, allowing only Tomas Plekanec’s power-play goal.
With the victory, the defending Stanley Cup champions rebounded from a loss to New Jersey on Saturday night that halted their seven-game winning streak.
Montreal’s Jaroslav Halak stopped 19 of 23 shots before he was pulled after the second period.
Crosby extended his point streak to five games, completing a hat trick during the first 36 minutes, giving him nine goals in October for the first time in his career. Last season, Crosby’s ninth goal came a full month later on Nov. 28.
Crosby has averaged roughly twice as many assists as goals over the course of his career but is on a pace for 62 this season.
“He can score,” said linemate Guerin, who has 411 career goals. “He usually has a pass-first mentality, but with the positions that he put himself in during the game, he can score a lot of goals.”
Crosby’s third hat trick came three years to the day after his first, and all three of his goals Wednesday came at even strength. He scored 8:33 into the contest when he one-timed a slap shot off a pass from Guerin between the glove and left pad of Halak, who was diving to his left.
“We made mistakes,” said Montreal defenceman Hal Gill, who won the Cup with the Penguins in June. “We had some turnovers and (Crosby) feeds off that. He waits for it and that’s when he capitalizes.”
Crosby made it 2-0 five minutes into the second when he corralled the rebound of Kunitz’s shot while in the slot and, with his back to the net, flipped a backhander high into the corner of the net.
“If you give him a chance, he’s going to score,” Halak said.
The goal that brought the deluge of hats onto the ice came with 4:27 left in the second when Kunitz fed him all alone in front of Halak, who stopped his initial shot but the rebound ricocheted off Crosby’s skate.
The play was reviewed but officials ruled he did not use a distinct kicking motion so the goal stood, giving the Penguins a 4-0 lead and Crosby his first three-goal game since Nov. 29, 2008.
“I felt good. I felt like I was getting chances, but I try to not to think about (hat tricks) too much,” Crosby said. “You don’t want to jinx it or think about it. I just wanted to make sure I kept generating chances. When Billy and Kuny are fore-checking like they were, creating loose pucks and stealing pucks, I just try to get ready for those opportunities.”
Rupp’s third goal came 12:58 into the second, and Plekanec scored his third 5:39 into the third during a 5-on-3 situation, ruining Fleury’s shot at his first shutout of the season.
Kunitz had a power play goal with 3:29 left – his second goal in his past 42 games (including playoffs).
“If you get points, it makes you feel good,” Kunitz said, “but the other aspects of my game – going in and being the first on the puck and trying to do all the small things I pride myself in… I’m not going to go up and score 40 or 50 (in a season), but if I get some breaks, hopefully this is the start of some good things.”
Notes: Halak started his fifth straight game. … Guerin has 820 points, seventh among U.S.-born players. … Goligoski has a six-game points streak. … Plekanec has at least a point in four straight. … Penguins RW Tyler Kennedy missed the game due to an undisclosed injury. … Including playoffs, Mellon Arena was sold out for the 125th consecutive game, dating to late in the 2006-07 season.