PITTSBURGH (AP) — Their young franchise goaltender was in the trainer’s room dealing with a lower-body injury and their struggling cross-state rivals were up two goals. That’s when the Pittsburgh Penguins’ erratic start briefly came into sharp focus during the second intermission on Monday night.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions responded with perhaps their best 22 minutes of hockey since raising the Cup in June.
Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust scored 39 seconds apart early in the third to tie it, Jake Guentzel’s second of the night evened it again with 64 seconds left in regulation and Sidney Crosby’s deflection 1:48 into overtime lifted the Penguins to an improbable 5-4 victory over reeling Philadelphia.
“In a lot of ways it was a microcosm of our season,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.
Meaning an inconsistent mix of dazzling offense, inexplicable breakdowns on the other end with an injury thrown in for good measure. Matt Murray exited with 4:21 left in the second period after Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek crashed into him during a breakaway. The 23-year-old two-time Cup winner managed to skate off under his own power before limping down the runway clearly favoring his right leg.
Murray will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. Rookie Tristan Jarry picked up the second win of his career by stopping 8 of 10 shots, spending most of his 25:24 of ice time watching his teammates pound away at Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott.
The Penguins finished with 52 shots in all, the last coming when Crosby deftly redirected Kris Letang’s shot from the point over Elliott and into the net for the 11th overtime winner of his career, tied with Mario Lemieux and Evgeni Malkin for most in franchise history.
“I had a thought that (Letang) might come to me,” Crosby said. “But ultimately it’s up to the guy with the puck to see what’s there. He made a great read and I was happy to see that go in.”
Guentzel and Crosby both finished with three points, and the Penguins have won two straight following a three-game losing streak. Just as important as the victory may have been the way Pittsburgh went about it. After letting the Flyers score three times in the second to go up 3-1, Pittsburgh dominated.
“We came out hard in the third,” Crosby said. “I think we were all pretty disappointed with our second, allowing them to get back in the game and carry the play the whole period. Came out hard, got a big goal early to get us going and then just kind of fed off of that.”
Sean Couturier collected his team-high 14th goal for the Flyers. Shayne Gostisbehere and Travis Konecny each scored their third of the season, but Philadelphia let a two-goal lead going into the third period evaporate for the second time in four days. Michael Raffl’s pretty deke around Jarry put the Flyers up 4-3 with 3:41 left in regulation but it wasn’t enough. Elliot made 47 saves but could do little to stop Crosby’s 10th goal of the season and fourth in his last four games.
Philadelphia is winless in its last eight games (0-4-4), the team’s longest slide since an 0-8-2 stretch in February, 2008.
“We’ve got to finish one of these,” Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s really not much more to be said other than that. We’ve got to finish one of these. We’re in position night after night and we were in position again tonight.”
The Penguins are in the midst of a stretch in which they play seven of eight at home, a time they hope they can use to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division. Jarry could get a heavier workload than expected if Murray is out an extended period.
“It’s always tough to see a guy go down, but you have to stay focused,” Letang said. “(Regardless of) whoever is in the net, you have to play the right way and play your game.”
NOTES: Penguins C Evgeni Malkin missed his fourth straight game with an upper body injury. … Pittsburgh D Ian Cole was a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game. … Crosby has four goals and five assists in his last four games. … Guentzel has eight goals in his last 11 games. … The Flyers scratched D Radko Gudas and Fs Taylor Leier and Jordan Weal. … The Penguins went 1 for 5 on the power play. The Flyers were 1 for 4.
Flyers: Host San Jose on Tuesday night. Philadelphia beat the Sharks 5-3 in the season opener on Oct. 4.
Penguins: Start a home-and-home series with the Sabres on Friday night in Buffalo. Pittsburgh won the first meeting between the two teams 5-4 in a shootout on Nov. 14.
For more NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey