PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Jordan Staal’s overtime goal did more than send Pittsburgh home winners.
He gave the depleted Penguins a rare dose of good news in a week stuffed with injury, suspension and losses.
Staal scored with 18.4 seconds left in overtime to earn Pittsburgh a 2-1 win over the Los Angles Kings on Thursday night.
“I just buried my head and fired as hard as I could,” Staal said.
Neither team had scored since the first period and it appeared a shootout was on the way. Staal ended any idea of that when he ripped a shot past Jonathan Quick for his fourth goal to give the Penguins their first win in three games.
Captain Sidney Crosby stopped by the morning skate and said there is no timetable for his return from a concussion. The Penguins have been gutted by injury and played four callups plucked from the minors Thursday morning.
Brett Sterling, one of those callups, scored his first goal for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma became the third coach in team history to win 100 games. His .657 winning percentage entering the game was already tops in team history.
“It was a rewarding win, to get the 100th one, the way our team battled here,” he said. “I’ve got the puck. It’s nice to get to triple-digits.”
He wouldn’t have 100 victories in 163 games with this kind of regular lineup.
The Penguins have been devastated by injury and, for now, suspension to a top forward. Crosby remains hopeful he’ll return from a concussion and Evgeni Malkin underwent season-ending knee surgery Thursday morning.
Chris Kunitz is out at least another four to six days with a lower-body injury, and Mike Comrie, Mark Letestu and Arron Asham are all sidelined with various injuries.
The lost production is staggering: Those six players have combined for 49.7 per cent of the Penguins’ goals this season (80-of-161).
And the Penguins played the first of four games without left-winger Matt Cooke, serving a suspension brought down by the NHL on Wednesday.
Fans brought “Free Matt Cooke” signs in support of the suspended forward.
Without Crosby and Malkin, the offence has fallen into a funk. They scored one goal in their past two games and no player in the lineup scored more than 10 this season.
To fill the lineup, the Penguins recalled four players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League, forwards Ryan Craig, Nick Johnson, Sterling and Joe Vitale.
Sterling wasted no time proving he was the right player for the promotion.
Sterling, from Los Angeles, grew up a Kings fan and dreamed of playing for them. He had to settle for scoring against L.A. instead, firing the puck over Quick’s shoulder for a 1-0 lead.
Johnson assisted on the goal and the fill-ins were on a roll.
“Just being in the NHL is obviously a great opportunity, and obviously scoring a goal is huge, and doing it against L.A. was really cool,” Sterling said. “It’s better for all of us, especially the guys that are fighting for positions here.”
The Kings evened the score with 2:43 left in the first. Jarret Stoll corralled the loose puck when Penguins defenceman Zbynek Michalek whiffed and put it past Marc-Andre Fleury for his 15th goal of the season.
Fleury made 32 saves.
Quick, with 24 saves, lamented the winning goal.
“He got some good wood on it and beat me under my arm,” he said. “It’s one I wish I had back, but I can’t do much about it now.”
The Penguins wouldn’t escape without an injury—centre Dustin Jeffrey left the game in the second with a lower-body injury. Bylsma said Jeffrey will not travel with the team for Friday’s game against the Islanders.
Crosby, who missed his 15th straight game, surprised his teammates with his visit. He said he expected to play this season after suffering a concussion, but there are no guarantees he’ll be able to make a comeback.
“I’m getting better, it’s just slow,” Crosby said. “That’s the tough part, the progression.
“Everything is improving, just at a slower rate than I’d want it to be.”
Crosby visited the Penguins for the first time since leaving the team last week to visit his parents outside of Halifax
NOTES—Penguins fans gave a huge ovation when they were asked to “Welcome back to Pittsburgh!” defenceman Rob Scuderi. Scuderi was a member of Pittsburgh’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship team and made several key stops to preserve the clinching victory in Game 7. He had 39 points in 300 career games for the Penguins. … Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher was at the game.