When Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren’t the penalty box Tuesday, they did their part in beating the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ star centers each scored a goal and goalie Matt Murray had another tidy night in net in a 3-1 victory, ending the Pens’ two-game slide while extending the Canes’ winless streak to five games.
Jeff Skinner scored his 20th goal of the season on a first-period power play for the Canes, but their five-on-five offensive woes continued. Nor were they able to score on another four power plays in the first two periods.
Malkin was whistled for three penalties and Crosby for two, including a nasty slash on Brock McGinn’s leg in the second period. Malkin’s second penalty, for high-sticking, came moments after he left the penalty box.
But the two eventually did what they do best for the reigning Stanley Cup champions— find the net.
Crosby scored on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period for a 2-1 lead, his NHL-leading 33rd of the season. Malkin scored his 25th in the third when unchecked in the low slot.
Malkin’s goal came after an icing call against the Canes, allowing the Pens a change. Malkin wheeled to the net after the faceoff as forward Carl Hagelin beat Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey to the puck and found Malkin alone in front.
“We haven’t scored much five-on-five and if you do that it puts a lot of pressure on everything else,” Hainsey said. “We haven’t been able to get leads and we play very well with the lead, we really do. … But we couldn’t get the lead and take off.”
The Canes (24-24-8) have scored four goals in the past five games and only two at even strength — by Skinner and Sebastian Aho. They were shut out twice during those games — by the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. On Tuesday, Murray had 29 saves for the Pens (37-14-8).
The opportunities again were there, as Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen each had first-period breakaways. But Murray wouldn’t be beaten. Neither would the Pens, who played without center Nick Bonino — out with an illness — and lost defenseman Trevor Daley after the first period with a lower-body injury.
“The effort was good,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “We got contributions throughout the lineup and I thought the guys played hard.”
Peters made a number of line changes for the game, looking to generate more offense. Center Victor Rask was on a line with Aho. Elias Lindholm and Teravainen centered Skinner and Lee Stempniak. Jordan Staal was placed with Nordstrom and McGinn, and Derek Ryan was the fourth-line center with Phil Di Giuseppe and Viktor Stalberg.
The Pens took an early 1-0 lead on a Scott Wilson redirection that got past goalie Cam Ward, but Skinner’s goal tied it and the Canes — with three power plays — had a 14-7 shooting edge in the first.
“I thought we weathered their storm in the first,” Pens coach Mike Sullivan said.
The Canes had the better of the play until Aho was called for interference at 14:35 of the second and then Stalberg for slashing at 15:31. Stalberg, angered by the call, slammed his stick against the glass in the penalty box, drawing a visit from referee Gord Dwyer.
The Canes’ penalty killers nearly escaped the trouble, but Crosby got a piece of a Phil Kessel shot at 16:21 for the 2-1 lead.
Skinner had scored off a heady setup pass from Stempniak as the Canes maintained pressure throughout the first-period power play, but their other power plays weren’t as smooth and were stymied by the Pens.
“We’ve got to find a way to get one there,” Skinner said. “It’s tough. They have a good team, but we had opportunities on the power play.”
Now 0-2-1 on a five-game homestand, the Canes face the Ottawa Senators on Friday and the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
“You go through ups and downs throughout the season,” Skinner said. “You go through stretches where everything seems to be bouncing your way, and you go through stretches that are the opposite. We’ll keep staying with it.”