ATLANTA – It’s too early in the season for coach Michel Therrien to worry about the slow progress of Pittsburgh’s power play on the road.
The Penguins have been among the NHL’s best in scoring on the power play at home, but maybe two goals in Atlanta will get the unit producing away from Mellon Arena. “Every game is a close game, and that’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” Therrien said. “I thought both teams played hard tonight, and we got the last chance on the power play and were able to capitalize on it.”
Petr Sykora redirected Sidney Crosby’s slap shot on a power play with 2:40 remaining to give Pittsburgh a 3-2 victory over the Thrashers on Thursday night, the Penguins’ seventh win in their last eight games.
Crosby scored his seventh goal to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead 12:24 into the second period. He also was credited with a pair of assists, including his 18th on Sykora’s fourth goal of the season.
Atlanta has lost two straight following a five-game winning streak. Slava Kozlov, scoring a goal in his third straight game, gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead on a power play 4:41 into the first with his 11th of the season.
Miroslav Satan’s ninth goal, a tip-in at the 10:57 mark of the first, forced a 1-1 tie for the Penguins. Jim Slater made it 2-2 with his second goal, a wide wraparound from the right side 1:14 after Crosby scored.
“It’s tough to lose like that, especially on a power play goal,” Slater said. “A tough way to lose. We got some chances.”
Tyler Kennedy set up Crosby’s goal, stealing the puck behind the net from Ron Hainsey after locking skates with the Atlanta defenceman.
With Crosby skating through the slot, Kennedy earned his seventh assist by sliding the puck from the left side of the crease. Crosby was falling backward as he fired a wrist shot past goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Ending a two-game stretch without a goal and having scored only three in the Penguins’ last nine, Crosby felt some relief.
“I was starting to feel the pressure,” he said. “It keeps going, and it keeps going and the tighter you squeeze the stick. Obviously it feels great to get that one out of the way and stop thinking about it now.”
Chris Thorburn’s interference penalty against Crosby at the Atlanta rear boards set up Pittsburgh’s winning power play, but not before Penguins goalie Dany Sabourin stopped Marty Reasoner’s short-handed attempt on a breakaway.
The Thrashers, unable to get Ilya Kovalchuk to score consistently under first-year coach John Anderson, could suffer more offensively if centre Todd White misses many games from a concussion he appeared to sustain early in the third.
White, who crashed headfirst into the corner boards after Pittsburgh defenceman Kris Letang checked him hard, tried twice unsuccessfully to stand up under his own power before he was helped off the ice.
Atlanta killed a two-man disadvantage that began at the 7:27 mark of the second and lasted 1:18 after Reasoner’s hooking penalty.
The Penguins managed three shots during that stretch, all by Sykora, but Therrien believed his defending Eastern Conference champions weren’t affected by a lack of effort despite beginning the game ranked 30th in road percentage on the power play.
At home, Pittsburgh ranked fifth.
“We had a lot of chances,” Therrien said. “In the second period, we had a 5-on-3, but their goalie kept them in it. I thought the chances were there.”
Sabourin, starting in place of injured goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, stopped 21 of 23 shots to improve to 4-1-1.
Pavelec started for the first time in four games and dropped to 2-1-0 after stopping 28 of 31 shots.
“A couple of positives are we played a great third period,” Pavelec said. “We had a couple of breakaways. Sabourin made some good saves, but we have to keep playing like we played in that period.”
Notes: Kozlov has eight goals and four assists in Atlanta’s last nine games. … Fleury did not make the trip because of an undisclosed lower-back injury. The Penguins’ next game is Saturday at home against Vancouver. … The Penguins improved to 2-3-2 at Philips Arena since the start of 2005-06.