PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Vancouver’s hockey fans saw it in person in February, and from afar nine months later.
Sidney Crosby’s timing, as it often is, was perfect.
Crosby scored on a breakaway seven seconds after leaving the penalty box, Max Talbot added a short-handed goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Vancouver Canucks in regulation for the first time in 10 years, winning 3-1 on Wednesday night.
The Canucks were 7-0-1 against the Penguins since losing 4-2 on Nov. 3, 2000, and had won their last four in Pittsburgh.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots during his fourth consecutive strong game since ending a slump in which he lost six of seven. The Penguins won for only the fourth time in their first 10 games in the new Consol Energy Center.
Fleury was especially strong during the Canucks’ five power plays, two resulting from Crosby penalties.
“It’s not one day that you wake up and you’re all good,” Fleury said. “It takes good practices and you work in practice, you get a win and you just get better.”
With Crosby scoring his seventh goal in seven games and generating numerous scoring chances, sometimes while playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins bounced back from a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers on Monday in which they blew a late 2-1 lead.
Crosby jumped out of the penalty box late in the first period after Pittsburgh killed off his hooking penalty, collected Talbot’s pass off the boards in stride and beat Roberto Luongo with a quick wrist shot for his 13th goal and second in five career games against Vancouver.
“I thought I might be able to sneak out behind them and it was perfect timing,” Crosby said. “As soon as I came out, the puck was there. It was a good bounce.”
Crosby and Luongo were Olympic teammates in Vancouver, where Crosby’s alert play in overtime allowed him to score the gold medal-cliching goal against the United States.
Vancouver came into the game with the NHL’s No. 2 power play, only to go 0-for-5 with the man advantage and allow Talbot’s short-handed goal at 5:44 of the second.
“Our execution wasn’t there,” Henrik Sedin said. “We made a lot of mistakes, we didn’t get pucks in (deep). We had 3-on-2s, 2-on-1s where passes weren’t on our sticks. It wasn’t what we need.”
Fleury’s best save came on a Henrik Sedin wrist shot from close range on a power play with Pittsburgh up 1-0 early in the second period. An undefended Daniel Sedin shot wide off the rebound, and Talbot scored on a 2-on-1 break with Matt Cooke 24 seconds later.
Luongo stopped Talbot’s initial shot, but Talbot got the puck back and stuffed it inside the far post on a wraparound for his fourth goal and the first short-handed goal allowed by Vancouver this season.
“It’s unfortunate, I don’t think Pittsburgh did anything special,” Luongo said. “They capitalized on some of the mistakes we made.”
The Penguins stretched it to 3-0—a rare big lead at home this season—when Arron Asham was the last to get his stick on the puck during a flurry in front of the net in which both Luongo and Christian Erhoff were sprawled in the crease.
Defenceman Dan Hamhuis, who turned down a Penguins offer to sign with Vancouver last summer, made it 3-1 by scoring 34 seconds later. Daniel Sedin passed up an open shot and slid the puck across the crease to Hamhuis for his second goal of the season, at 9:38 of the second, but the Canucks couldn’t beat Fleury again.
“This is a team I think we should beat,” Daniel Sedin said. “They gave up a lot of shots and we didn’t capitalize.”
The Sedins each had an assist after having seven points apiece in their previous three games.
Notes: Vancouver finished a 2-2-1 road trip. … Canucks D Aaron Rome was scratched after playing a season-high 21 minutes against Buffalo on Monday night. … Crosby has at least one goal in six of his last seven games. He has 14 points in those seven games. … Luongo, who made 26 saves, is 3-5-1 on the road.