PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins took full advantage of their time off.
After a season-high five days off between games, Pittsburgh scored twice in the first 3:38 of the game and cruised to a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
Crosby was flying around the ice and had two goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 of 23 shots for the Penguins, who have won three in a row.
“I felt pretty good,” Crosby said. “I thought we got some good practices in and I tried to take advantage of it. You don’t get a chance to work on things throughout the year with morning skates and short practices all the time, so you try to make the most of it when you do have the time. I felt pretty sharp.”
Tyler Kennedy and Evgeni Malkin also scored, and Colby Armstrong had two assists for Pittsburgh. The Penguins have scored 14 goals in their past three games and have at least a point in five of their past six after a 1-6 stretch.
The Penguins’ previous game was a 5-0 win over Atlanta last Saturday. Other than four days off during the all-star break in January, Pittsburgh doesn’t have more than a three-day layoff at any other point this season.
“It was a little weird at first because we hadn’t played in so long,” Fleury said. “But it turned out pretty good.”
Mike Ribeiro scored for Dallas, playing its fifth game in eight days. Dallas, which has lost two in row after winning six straight, played three times during the Penguins’ idle stretch.
Still, Dallas coach Dave Tippett rejected the notion that his team was tired.
“The lack of energy should be at the end of the game,” he said. “We always talk about when you’re chasing a game from behind, it takes energy.”
While the Stars appeared worn out, the Penguins certainly didn’t look like they had any rust. Crosby, who has a point in each of all but two games this season, scored 24 seconds into the contest when he gathered the puck along the right-wing boards and beat goalie Mike Smith between the legs.
“I think they thought I was probably going to continue behind the net,” Crosby said. “I just tried to cut in a little early and tried to jam it.”
Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said Crosby’s goal set the tone for the night.
“When you score on your first shift in the first 30 seconds, that gives you some momentum,” said Therrien.
Kennedy scored three minutes later on a similar play. He picked up the puck along the left-wing boards and beat Smith with a wrist shot to the stick side.
“It was good to get the first couple; that gets us on roll a bit,” Crosby said. “I thought a big part of (shaking off any rust) was trying to get through that first period, and we were able to get the lead which helped.”
Dallas got back into the game 5:42 into the second when Ribeiro blasted a slap shot from above the right faceoff circle past Fleury for his 10th of the season. Ribeiro used former Stars defenceman Darryl Sydor as a screen on the shot.
“We unfortunately couldn’t get things rolling,” Smith said. “We were chasing all game.”
Crosby’s second goal of the game – and 14th of the season – came midway through the second when he picked up a rebound of Sydor’s shot just to the left of Smith and roofed a wrist shot underneath the crossbar to make it 3-1.
Crosby had several other quality scoring chances in searching for his second career hat trick and first since Oct. 28, 2006. He finished with a game-high eight shots.
“Their best player was pretty good tonight,” Tippett said.
“He had a lot of energy tonight,” Therrien said.
Malkin scored his 10th with 5:32 to play, tapping in a nice cross-ice pass from Petr Sykora.
Notes: Pittsburgh didn’t have a power-play opportunity until Steve Ott’s holding-the-stick penalty with 3:22 left in the game. … Pittsburgh D Sergei Gonchar missed the game because of a groin injury. He had played in 105 consecutive games for Pittsburgh. … Penguins D Mark Eaton has not had a minus rating in a game in his past 13 contests. … LW Gary Roberts assisted on Kennedy’s goal for his 898th career point.