PITTSBURGH (AP) Penguins coach Mike Sullivan believes the bye week has arrived at a perfect time for his up-and-down team.
Pittsburgh took an early two-goal lead before the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions were forced to rally from a two-goal hole with the final three goals of the game against Boston. Evgeni Malkin’s second goal of the game at 2:51 of overtime capped the rally, as the Penguins beat the Bruins 6-5 Sunday night.
”It will be both a mental and physical break for everybody and it should serve us well,” Sullivan said of the team’s mandatory five-day break. ”I don’t think it’s a bad thing for us to get away from the game a little bit and recharge the batteries, so when we all come back we should be excited to play.”
The Penguins, coming off a 4-0 win at the New York Islanders on Friday, got consecutive victories for the first time since Dec. 1-2 when they defeated Buffalo twice by a combined score of 9-1. The Penguins, who have just six wins in their last 11 games, moved into the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, but are one point ahead of three teams tied for last place in the Metropolitan Division.
”To get results at this time of year is critically important because you can see how tight the league and our division is,” Sullivan said. ”There was a lot of adversity tonight, but I thought our guys stayed with it.”
Phil Kessel set up Malkin, who one-timed a shot over Tuukka Rask’s pad during a 2-on-1 for the game-winner. Malkin and Kessel scored power-play goals in regulation, while Kris Letang, Jamie Oleksiak and Riley Sheahan also scored for Pittsburgh.
Matt Murray stopped all six shots he faced in relief of Tristan Jarry, who made 14 saves on 19 shots before he was pulled after the Bruins’ fifth goal.
Sidney Crosby had three assists after getting a season-high four points against the Islanders. Crosby, with points in five straight against Boston, had four points in 11 games before the last two.
”We were down, but we felt like we did some good things,” Crosby said. ”I think we’ve been resilient. They capitalized on some mistakes, but we stuck with it. We’re starting to play with some speed and purpose out there.”
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Backes, Noel Acciari and Ryan Spponer all scored in regulation for Boston. The Bruins lost, but earned a point for the 11th straight game (8-0-3). Boston has now totaled 22 goals in its last four games.
Rask, who hasn’t lost in regulation since Nov. 26, stopped 29 shots for Boston.
Patrice Bergeron, who scored four goals one night earlier during a win against Carolina, briefly left in the first period after blocking a shot, but he returned. Bergeron, who played 18:12, said X-rays on his right foot were negative, but he needed stitches.
That didn’t take away the sting of the loss.
”We got the start we wanted, but then we got away from our game and they took it to us,” Bergeron said. ”There are some breakdowns that are uncharacteristic of us, but we stuck with it and we got a point out of it. Obviously, we know that we can be a lot better.”
Both teams let two-goal leads slip away.
Pittsburgh held a 3-1 advantage in the first period on goals by Oleksiak, Kessel and Letang. But Boston rallied with the next four goals from Marchand, Acciari, Pastrnak and Backes to open a 5-3 lead.
Malkin’s power-play tally with 3.6 seconds to play in the second period pulled Pittsburgh within one and Sheahan’s short-side goal off the rush 2:54 into the third period tied the score.
Murray stopped Marchand’s penalty shot with 1:01 to play in regulation to force overtime, setting the stage for Malkin to end it.
”It’s hard when you’re up by two goals and then you end up being down the way we were,” Sullivan said. ”Just our ability to stay in it and respond is a great indicator of our team leadership.”
NOTES: Penguins D Brian Dumoulin played after missing the previous two games with a concussion. … Penguins D Chad Ruhwedel missed his sixth game with an upper-body injury. … The Penguins scratched D Ian Cole and F Carter Rowney. Boston sat F Frank Vatrano and D Paul Postma. … Pittsburgh reassigned D Frank Corrado to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Bruins: Will take a mandatory five-day bye week before visiting Montreal on Saturday
Penguins: Will also take a mandatory five-day bye week before hosting Detroit on Saturday