PITTSBURGH (AP) – As the bodies piled up in front of the New Jersey net with the clock ticking toward zero and the Pittsburgh Penguins trailing by a goal, Sidney Crosby watched patiently off to the side.
Then just like that, Crosby jabbed his stick into the scrum, pulled it out and flipped it by Keith Kinkaid with 14 seconds to go, giving the Penguins the boost they needed to pull out a 4-3 shootout victory on Saturday night.
“The puck is in a bunch of feet and you hope you can eventually get a stick on it, whether it’s going to jump loose and so many bodies, guys fighting for it,” Crosby said. “I just tried to wait it out and was able to get a stick on it and get a shot away.”
Crosby’s NHL-leading 15th goal sent the game to overtime and defenseman Kris Letang picked up the only goal of the shootout, helping Pittsburgh bounce back from an ugly loss in Minnesota on Friday.
“I thought we responded the right way,” Crosby said. “We had enough chances to win the game and it just took a while to finally get there.”
Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel picked up his third goal in six days, and Tom Kuhnhackl earned his first goal of the season. Evgeni Malkin had three assists while extending his point streak to eight games for Pittsburgh, which outshot the Devils 49-30 and controlled play for long stretches barely 24 hours after getting pushed around in Minnesota.
Matt Murray settled down after a bumpy start and finished with 27 saves. He turned aside New Jersey’s PA Parenteau, Mike Cammalleri and Travis Zajac in the shootout.
Cammalleri scored twice for the Devils and now has seven goals in his last five games. Vernon Fiddler added a short-handed goal and Kinkaid made 46 saves, but was in no position to stop Letang in the shootout.
“I thought we played a good game,” Kinkaid said. “They just throw everything at the net and you just have to be aware. I thought we deserved a little bit better, but stuff like that happens.”
The Penguins improved to 15-0-1 in their last 16 games following a regulation loss.
“We were resilient all night,” Murray said. “We had that belief on our bench. I know I certainly did the way we were playing. I knew we were going to bury one.”
Pittsburgh is in the midst of a baffling stretch of dominant performances and duds in equal measure. The latest came in a 6-2 drumming in Minnesota on Friday in which the Penguins surrendered three power-play goals and did little right, a loss that came less than 48 hours after an overwhelming 6-1 romp at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
Searching for a spark while missing injured veterans Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan switched up the lines against the Devils, reuniting the “HBK” line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel while moving 40-year-old Matt Cullen alongside Crosby and Conor Sheary.