PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't nearly as menacing or dangerous without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup.
But the Penguins still know how to win.
The Pens found a way Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. Getting a goal late in the second period from Dustin Jeffrey, then scores from Mark Letestu and Pascal Dupuis in the third, Pittsburgh notched a 3-2 victory at Consol Energy Center.
Trailing 3-0, the Hurricanes did make it close at the end. Sergei Samsonov scored with 4:25 left in regulation, and Eric Staal with 57.8 seconds remaining after goalie Cam Ward was pulled for a sixth attacker.
The Canes got in a few whacks in the final seconds but the Pens' Jordan Staal sent the puck back down the ice.
Jeffrey, an American League callup this week, gave the Pens an unexpected goal. The rest was supplied by special teams as Letestu scored on the power play and Dupuis short-handed.
Crosby, who may have to sit out the NHL All-Star Game next Sunday, missed his eighth straight game because of post-concussion symptoms. Malkin, also selected for the All-Star game, missed his second with a sore knee and sinus infection.
But Staal had a huge game for the Pens (30-15-4), outdueling his older brother, Eric, of the Canes. Jordan Staal assisted on the Dupuis goal, was hard to handle in the offensive zone and battled hard defensively.
"He played real well. But their group of forwards as a whole played pretty good," Canes captain Eric Staal said. "They were skating hard to the forecheck and hard to the neutral zone and making it difficult for us to execute chips and getting pucks in for our forecheck."
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, an All-Star pick, did his part and was bidding for a shutout until the final minutes.
The first period was a slow-moving, scoreless snooze. It appeared the second period would be more of the same - until the final four minutes.
On a delayed penalty against the Penguins, the Canes' Erik Cole rushed into the Pittsburgh zone for a shot from the right wing. The puck hit the crossbar, Cole raised his stick in celebration and the initial call was a goal with 3:58 left in the period.
Not for long. A review revealed the puck hit the shoulder of Fleury and banged off the bottom of the crossbar but did not cross the goal line. No goal.
The Canes went on the power play, only to have defenseman Jamie McBain called for an interference penalty. On the four-on-four, Jeffrey was open at the top of the right circle and whistled a shot past Ward with 2:46 remaining in the period.
"They didn't do anything special other than work hard. They didn't give up a whole lot during the game," Ward said. "We didn't get too many opportunities until late in the third period when we had the last push.
"Too little, too late. You need that [desperation] for the whole game. We didn't have the jump we had in these last two games. We need to get that back."
It proved to be a nightmarish game for Cole. Early in the third, the rugged winger knocked over defenseman Ben Lovejoy in front of the Pens goal for an interference call and offensive-zone penalty.
Pittsburgh needed just 19 seconds to get a power-play goal and a 2-0 lead. On a rush into the Carolina zone, Chris Kunitz found Letestu open in the low slot for the score at 2:22.
The Canes (23-19-6) had an opening when the Pens' Brooks Orpik was called for roughing at 6:43. But Dupuis found an opening and beat Ward with a back-hander.
"They're missing two players ... But the fact one of them [Crosby] is the best player in the world doesn't mean the rest of them are American League players," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "Take those two of the lineup and everybody says they should have a struggle winning.
"It's like the rest of the National Hockey League now, without their lottery pick. But the fact he's out of the lineup doesn't diminish the rest of their team."
firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-829-8945