PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby’s big game helped the Pittsburgh Penguins overcome a two-goal deficit for the second straight game.
Crosby had two goals and an assist and the Penguins scored the final five goals in a 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday for their third consecutive win since Olympic break ended.
Crosby scored the Penguins’ fourth and fifth goals – with 3:13 to play in the second and 1:35 into the third – to take the NHL lead with 44 on the season. He had been tied with the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, who was playing later against the New York Rangers.
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored in his Penguins debut, and Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also had goals. Pittsburgh trailed the Rangers 4-2 midway through the second Thursday but came back to win.
“The last game it was a matter of us playing really well and wearing the other team down,” Crosby said. “Today was just a matter of trying to regroup and respond after a not-so-good first half (of the game). They were kind different scenarios, but we came out in the second half, especially today, and tried to be a lot better. We got rewarded with some goals for it.”
Mike Ribeiro and Brandon Segal each had a goal and an assist, and Loui Eriksson scored his 25th goal for Dallas, which has lost three straight since the NHL resumed play.
Scoring his first goal since his overtime winner for Canada against the U.S. in the gold-medal game Sunday, Crosby gave the Penguins a 4-3 lead by banking a shot off Stars defenceman Trevor Daley from behind the goal line and with the net to his left.
Crosby made it 5-3 with a short-handed goal 1:35 into the third, 38 seconds after the Penguins killed the remainder of what Stars veteran Mike Modano called an “atrocious” 5-on-3 Dallas power play. It was Crosby’s second career short-handed goal, the first coming Oct. 23 of this season.
“That power play didn’t generate much, and they came back and scored at the end of it,” Ribeiro said. “That was the game.”
Crosby’s goals were the third and fourth of five successive by the Penguins that followed three straight Stars goals that had given Dallas a 3-1 lead.
“Having a 3-1 lead, that looked like a big turnaround,” Modano said. “We had a good start to the second, and then all of a sudden the bottom fell out.
“Every mistake we seem to make now just ends up in our net, so it’s magnified 1,000 times.”
Ponikarovsky, who was traded from Toronto for prospect Luca Caputi and defenceman Martin Skoula on Tuesday night, scored his 20th of the season while on the power play with 4:47 to play, roofing a rebound over Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.
“The atmosphere on the bench here, basically guys are staying positive because it’s a skilled team and everybody just knows that we can come back and score the goals,” Ponikarovsky said. “That’s what happened.”
Lehtonen was making his first start for the Stars since being acquired in a trade with Atlanta on Feb. 9. A former No. 2 overall draft pick of the Thrashers, he made his Dallas debut in relief Thursday night.
Staal opened the scoring against him 2:11 into the contest on a partial breakaway set up by Matt Cooke.
Ribeiro tied it 12:05 into the game with his 15th and Segal made it 2-1 1:29 into the second, his third of the season and second in three games with Dallas.
Eriksson made it 3-1 29 seconds later, his second straight game with a goal.
But 1:33 after that Kunitz pulled the Penguins back to within one, with Crosby setting him up for his 10th goal, and Dupuis tied it 9:10 into the period off a pass from Kris Letang for his 15th of the season and second in three games.
Marc-Andre Fleury, pulled Thursday after giving up four goals on 12 shots in his first game since being on Team Canada’s roster for the Olympics, made 31 saves after allowing three on the first 11 shots he faced.
“We always know that he’ll bounce back,” Crosby said. “It’s going to happen… There was no question he wouldn’t.”
NOTES: Penguins C Evgeni Malkin had a 15-game point streak snapped. … The Stars, making their first visit to Pittsburgh since Nov. 30, 2007, and second in the past six years, have not won at Mellon Arena since Dec. 23, 2007. … Dallas D Stephane Robidas had an assist, his career-high 24th. … Ribeiro has eight points in six games since returning from a throat injury and 18 points in 16 career games against Pittsburgh. … Letang had two assists. … D Jordan Leopold had his first assist since being acquired by the Penguins Monday.