PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t expect to go much longer with minimal output from stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. For now, they’re getting by with goals from players whose scoring for a season sometimes doesn’t match a week of Crosby’s.
Pascal Dupuis scored on a slap shot from along the edge of the left circle with 10.8 seconds left in overtime and the Penguins kept the Philadelphia Flyers winless, giving up a two-goal lead in less than a minute before winning 3-2 Tuesday night.
Dupuis, skating along the boards, took Brooks Orpik’s pass, hesitated for a moment as he debated whether to pass to a trailing Sidney Crosby, then let go of a hard shot that beat goalie Antero Niittymaki to the glove side.
“I brought it back with my foot and it almost got stuck there on me (in the soft ice), but I closed my eyes and shot it and it went in,” Dupuis said.
Niittymaki was surprised the 45-foot shot went in, given the bad angle and the fast-deteriorating ice conditions on a day the high temperature in Pittsburgh was close to 27 C.
“His angle wasn’t that good, and I pretty much thought it would go wide or hit me,” said Niittymaki, who made 25 saves in his first start. “Maybe I was in little bit of a wrong place, the positioning wasn’t perfect, but it was a pretty good shot.”
The Flyers, despite getting goals from Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne in the final minute of the second period, have dropped their first three games for the first time since the labour dispute-shortened 1995 season.
“That’s not the place we want to be, that’s not the start we want, but we saw some great stuff tonight,” said Gagne, who has scored in all three games after missing 57 games with concussion-like problems last season. “It’s not like we played bad three games in a row. But it’s a rough league now, and those two points are hard to get.”
Pittsburgh didn’t get a goal from former MVP Crosby for the fourth consecutive game, yet avoided its first three-game losing streak since losing four in a row last November.
Between them, Crosby, the 2006-07 scoring champion, and Malkin, last year’s runner-up, have only one goal as the Penguins have gone 2-1-1.
“That’s what makes winning teams, everybody chipping in at different times. It’s a matter of time before their all their effort becomes goals,” Dupuis said. “I’m not worried about that. It’s nice to see other guys putting it in.”
Orpik and faceoff specialist Mike Zigomanis also scored for the Penguins, who lost 2-1 to the Devils in overtime on Saturday night on a Zach Parise goal that was similar to Dupuis’ game-winner.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for Pittsburgh, giving him 75 in two games.
After 35 minutes without any scoring, the Flyers and Penguins each got two goals in less than a minute to make it 2-2 in their first matchup since Pittsburgh’s 6-0 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final last spring.
Tyler Kennedy’s faceoff win set up Kris Letang’s pass to Orpik at the left point and the defenceman’s first career power-play goal in 301 games, and only his fifth career goal. Orpik is playing the point because of injuries to defencemen Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney.
“We’re getting contributions from our defence, and that’s a great sign,” Crosby said.
After Orpik scored at 14:12, Zigomanis got his first goal since Oct. 30, 2007, when he was with Phoenix, by putting checking line teammate Matt Cooke’s pass from behind the net past Niittymaki from the lower right circle at 14:54.
Fleury, coming off a 47-save game against the Devils, kept Philadelphia scoreless until a 21-second span later in the period.
Carter was attempting to pass across the crease when the puck was deflected, apparently by defenceman Hal Gill, past Fleury for Carter’s second. Gagne scored his third at 19:37 by redirecting Kimmo Timonen’s shot from above the circles, after Daniel Briere won a faceoff with Crosby.
“But it’s still only one point,” Flyers captain Mike Richards said. “Good teams find a way to win. We’re still looking for two points.”
Notes: Philadelphia hasn’t scored in the first period yet this season. … Philadelphia (0-2-1) already trails the Atlantic Division-leading Rangers by nine points. … The Flyers, second in the league on the power play last season, went 0-for-6 and are 2-for-19 overall. … Malkin hit the right post twice in the second period.