PITTSBURGH (AP) – Phil Kessel scored twice, Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist and the Pittsburgh Penguins got plenty of help from other players in a 6-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Matt Cullen added a goal and an assist, Ben Lovejoy scored his first goal since November and Scott Wilson got the first goal of his career for the Penguins. Pittsburgh never trailed and picked up two valuable points while trying to keep pace in the jumbled Eastern Conference playoff race.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots, and Pittsburgh improved to 7-1 in its last eight home games.
Rookie Dylan Larkin boosted his team-leading goal total to 19 for Detroit. Tomas Jurco and Henrik Zetterberg also scored for the Red Wings, who struggled defensively for a third straight game. Petr Mrazek made 27 saves, but Detroit has given up 11 goals combined in his last two starts.
Pittsburgh’s offensive surge that started with a comeback win in Detroit on New Year’s Eve had cooled recently with center Evgeni Malkin out with a lower-body injury. The Penguins managed just two goals in their previous three games coming in even with Crosby logging heavy minutes.
Coach Mike Sullivan declined to put more pressure on his star, saying instead it was on the entire lineup to pick it up. Though Crosby scored and collected his 30th assist on Kessel’s goal 2:43 into the second, most of Pittsburgh’s production came from unlikely places.
Lovejoy’s innocent flip toward the Detroit goal deflected off Red Wings’ forward Darren Helm and past Mrazek 9:56 into the game for Lovejoy’s first score in 34 games. Jurco responded with a wrister from between the circles to tie it before a scramble in front of the net ended with Cullen pushing the puck by Mrazek late in the period.
The 19-year-old Larkin tied it briefly 2:19 into the second by racing in to poke a rebound by Fleury. The tie lasted just 24 seconds as Crosby drew three Red Wings to him and slipped a pass to Kessel. Fleury preserved the lead midway through the period during a spectacular sequence in which he made three sprawling saves, the last with his stick on the goal line as Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader pushed the goaltender into the net.
Wilson, one of a handful of minor league forwards getting serious playing time with Pittsburgh because of injuries to regulars, made the first goal of his 13-game career memorable. Conor Sheary did most of the hard work, digging the puck out from behind the Detroit net, going to the corner to retrieve it and sending a pass from one knee to Wilson in the left circle. Wilson slammed the pass by Mrazek 16:46 into the second.
Kessel put in his own rebound 6:26 into the third for his fourth multigoal game of the season and gave the Penguins plenty of breathing room to withstand Zetterberg’s slick backhand by Fleury with 8:47 left before Crosby’s empty-netter finished off Detroit.