PITTSBURGH — Coach Mike Sullivan knows the Penguins have had mieresults have been mixed for Pittsburgh since he took over a month ago. Still, he likes his players’ effort.
The Penguins were able to put it all together for a lopsided win on Sunday.
“I think we have played pretty consistent hockey,” said Sullivan, whose team is 6-6-4 since he took over Dec. 13 for Mike Johnston. “We’ve said that if we continue to believe and play the right way, the results will go our way. Fortunately, we got the result we were looking for.”
Penguins defenceman Trevor Daley scored his third of the season in his 800th NHL game. Olli Maatta scored his fifth and Conor Sheary his second for the Penguins, who are one of several teams in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh won for just the second time in six games, but the Penguins picked up points for the 10th time in 12 games.
The Penguins also ended a three-game winless stretch against Carolina, which defeated them twice in the last month, including an overtime loss on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be a grind until the end of the season,” Fleury said. “There are so many teams that are so close in the standings. Every time you play an Eastern Conference team, it’s always a big night.”
Carolina lost its second straight after a recent four-game winning streak. The Hurricanes, following an overtime loss against Vancouver on Friday, had at least a point in their last five games.
The Hurricanes allowed three or more goals in 15 of the last 26 games against Pittsburgh, going 1-11-3 in those outings.
Eddie Lack, playing in his 100th NHL game, stopped 27 shots for Carolina.
“I just didn’t think we were very good overall,” Hurricanes captain Eric Staal said. “We were on our heels a little bit and we didn’t execute like we normally do.”
Crosby gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead, scoring a power-play goal with 36.3 seconds left in the second period. The puck went off Crosby’s skate and into the goal at the right post after a sharp Phil Kessel feed from the left point. A review of the goal was upheld and Carolina’s challenge of offsides on the play also proved inconclusive. Pittsburgh entered the third period with a three-goal lead.
“I didn’t try to kick it in,” Crosby said. “I wasn’t sure about the offsides though. It was hard to tell. I’ve been on the other side of those. It’s nice to see one count there.”
Crosby scored his second goal in the third period, putting a wrist shot in the top corner behind Lack off the rush. Crosby has points in 10 of his last 13 games, amassing eight goals and 17 points during the span. He has 14 goals and 36 points after beginning the season with one goal and five points in his first 11 games.
“I’ll take them any way they come right now,” Crosby said.
Carl Hagelin made his debut for the Penguins on Sunday, playing on a line with Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. The speedy forward was acquired Saturday morning from Anaheim for forward David Perron and defenceman Adam Clendening.
Hagelin enjoyed back-to-back 17-goal seasons with the New York Rangers and played a key role on one of the top penalty killing units in the league. Hagelin, who scored the overtime goal that eliminated Pittsburgh from the playoffs last season, was traded to Anaheim during the summer where he struggled with four goals and 12 points in 43 games.
“I’m just trying to play my game, use my speed and create turnovers,” Hagelin said. “It can always get better, but the most important thing today is that we got the two points.”
Maatta opened the scoring for Pittsburgh 3:54 into the game. He worked around Jeff Skinner along the right wing boards, cut toward the goal and put a shot in the top right corner.
Pittsburgh’s fourth line forced a turnover at the Carolina blue line to set up Sheary’s goal later in the period.
The Penguins successfully killed a 5-on-3 power play for 43 seconds in the second period after Hagelin was sent off for hooking. It was the last quality chance for the Hurricanes after Crosby scored his power play goal late in the period.
“They had a bit of a push in the second,” Crosby said. “To finish off that way and get that goal was nice going into the third.”
NOTES: Penguins’ D Kris Letang missed Sunday’s game with a hand injury. Letang, who was hurt Friday at Tampa Bay, will be a game-time decision Monday at St. Louis. … Penguins D David Warsofsky left in the third period after a collision with the referee. … Hurricanes’ F Brad Malone played his 100th game with the team. … Carolina is back in action Thursday at Toronto.