PITTSBURGH – Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins made quick work of the Los Angeles Kings.
Malkin and Crosby each had a goal and an assist to help the Penguins beat the Kings 4-1 on Friday night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves, and Tyler Kennedy and Bill Guerin added goals for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins, tied with Philadelphia for fourth in the Eastern Conference, have won three straight to improve to 12-1-3 under interim coach Dan Bylsma.
“There’s a confidence and a swagger to our team,” Bylsma said. “We have every right to have that right now with our record over the past 16 games.”
The Penguins have a chance to break their tie with Philadelphia on Sunday, when they host the Flyers.
“It seems like everything is going good for us,” Fleury said. “We’re having more fun. We’re happy, smiling, and the team is improving.”
Friday’s game was decided in the first period, when Malkin and Crosby scored to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
Crosby opened the scoring with 7:27 left in the first period, stealing a pass from Justin Williams in the right faceoff circle and firing a backhander past goalie Jonathan Quick.
Crosby extended his points streak to 12 games with his 28th goal.
“Los Angeles is a team that works hard on the road,” Crosby said. “It was important for us to get the lead. We did that and kept it.”
Almost five minutes later, Malkin redirected a pass from Crosby and scored a power-play goal to give the Penguins a two-goal advantage.
Malkin leads the NHL with 104 points on 33 goals and 71 assists. Crosby, with 94 points, passed Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for second place.
Kennedy and Guerin scored 2:23 apart in the second period to give Pittsburgh a 4-0 lead.
Bylsma, a former Kings player who was coaching against Los Angeles for the first time, was happy with his team’s aggressive play.
“This was a game where it didn’t matter if it was Los Angeles, Boston, or Philadelphia,” he said. “We needed to focus on playing the right way. It was good to see us come out and play the right way.”
Michal Handzus scored, and Quick made 22 saves for Los Angeles, which is 1-1 on a season-long six-game road trip.
The Kings, who entered the game in 13th place in the Western Conference, beat Boston in overtime Thursday night.
“We battled and fought hard, but we just didn’t have it today,” Quick said.
Handzus spoiled Fleury’s shutout with a 5-on-3, power-play goal, his 17th of the season, with 12:33 left in the game.
“When you’re down 4-0, you have to keep working at your game, and that is really important when you’re in that situation,” Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. “We’re a young club that has to figure that out.”
Los Angeles finished 1-for-8 on the power play. The Penguins have killed 39 of 42 penalties over their past nine games and are 7-0-2 in that span.
“It’s disappointing to let that one up, but it is 5-on-3,” Bylsma said. “For the rest of the game, our penalty kill was strong.”
Notes: Los Angeles activated Williams off injured reserve before Friday’s game. The right winger, acquired from Carolina just before the trade deadline, broke his left hand Feb. 15 while playing with the Hurricanes. … Kings D Denis Gauthier was scratched, and is expected to miss up to two weeks with an upper body injury. In his place, the team called up D Davis Drewiske from Manchester of the American Hockey League. … The Penguins are 3-0-1 on a franchise-record eight-game homestand. … Bylsma appeared in 220 games for Los Angeles over parts of five seasons from 1995-2000.