WINNIPEG - Playing some of the NHL's heavyweights early in the season is paying big dividends for the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets registered their second straight victory and earned their fifth point in three games, scoring three goals in the middle period to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 before another at raucous sellout crowd at MTS Centre on Friday night.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd, wingers Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien each had a goal and an assist for Winnipeg.
Sidney Crosby had a pair of first-period goals for the Penguins, who led 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Winnipeg improved its record to 2-2-1 with wins over the Pens and the Washington Capitals and a shootout loss to the Boston Bruins. The club opened with a lackluster 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators last weekend.
Kane, whose early goal in the second period sparked the hosts, was duly impressed with his team's effort against world-class players like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Kris Letang.
"It's great. You get to challenge yourself against the top players in the league and in the world and you can only hope that guys rise to the occasion. And I think the guys did that," said Kane. "It's pretty obvious that we've come a long way since that first game at home. As a group, we can still get better. But at the same time we've taken some big strides."
Kane scored just 1:10 into the middle frame to begin the rally, finishing off a three-way passing play with Byfuglien and Wheeler just moments after a clumsy turnover by the Pens just outside their blueline.
The magnitude of the mistake was not lost on Pens' head coach Dan Bylsma, whose team dropped to 2-2-0.
"We had one big play, one turnover that got them back in the game with that first goal," he said, noting his players got caught on a long shift to start the second period. "(The long changes) you can really pin a team back on their heels and get them with tired legs. That play, in particular, is a very good example of (the Jets) doing that. We had tired guys out there and they made a mistake right at the beginning of the second."
Ladd and Byfuglien scored in the second period, while Wheeler added an empty-netter to seal things.
Ladd said the trick for the Jets now is to continue their solid play into Sunday's game when they host the New York Islanders.
"Last year, we played our best games against the top teams and we had letdowns after big games like this. So, we have to make sure mentally we refocus, get back to practice (Saturday) and be sharp on Sunday," he said.
It took just over four minutes for Crosby to get his first-ever point in Winnipeg, firing a shot from a bad angle over the shoulder of Ondrej Pavelec as the Pens took an early 1-0 lead.
That leaves Vancouver's Rogers Arena as the only building in the NHL in which Crosby hasn't registered at least a point in his career.
Just over 10 minutes later, he scored again, moving into the slot and backhanding a shot that dribbled through Pavelec's legs.
The Pens' captain said the Jets showed great composure coming back.
"They stuck with their game plan, even when they were down two," Crosby said. "And we got caught maybe making things a little tough on ourselves with some of the plays we made, probably forced things a little bit and ended up paying for that."
Pavelec was sensational for the Jets, stopping 31 shots. Tomas Vokoun made 28 saves for the Penguins.
Notes: For the first time in his career, Crosby played an NHL game in Winnipeg on Friday night. But it wasn't his first time on the ice at MTS Centre. The 25-year-old center trained in Winnipeg and played two exhibition games with Team Canada in late 2004 prior to the '05 World Junior Championship in Grand Forks, N.D. The Jets' Ladd was Crosby's teammate on that squad, widely considered to be the best Canadian junior team of all time. Crosby missed both of Pittsburgh's games in Winnipeg last season because of concussion symptoms. ... Jets fans have come up with some unique chants since the start of their inaugural season in 2011-12. Case in point was Friday's chorus of "Mario's pool boy" every time Crosby touched the puck. Sid the Kid used to live with Pens great Mario Lemieux when he first broke into the league. ... The Pens wrap up a two-game road trip Sunday in Ottawa against the Senators. ... Winnipeg hosts the New York Islanders on Sunday. ... Penguins forward Tanner Glass played for the first time against his former team Friday. Last season, he was on a line in Winnipeg with Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn, and the trio was popular with fans for their energy and grit. Fans dubbed it the GST line, considered 'taxing' on the opposition. In Canada, GST refers to the national goods and service tax. ... Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury became the franchise's all-time leader in wins last Saturday, earning his 227th career victory as the Pens knocked off the Flyers 3-1 in Philadelphia. ... Six different Jets players accounted for the club's six goals this season, prior to Friday's game. ... Pavelec has started all four games in net for Winnipeg and will get the lion's share during the abbreviated season. A year ago, he started 68 of 82 games for the Jets, going 29-28-9 with a goal against average of 2.91.