The Pittsburgh Penguins were rolling before Sidney Crosby came back, and they pushed their winning streak to double digits by beating the Eastern Conference's top team in their captain's return.
Perhaps a healthy Crosby can do something about the Penguins' inability to win - or score - in New Jersey.
Pittsburgh tries to claim the NHL's longest winning streak this season at 11 in Saturday's matinee at the Prudential Center, where it's totaled four goals in four straight losses to the Devils.
The Penguins outscored opponents 33-13 in winning nine straight heading into Madison Square Garden on Thursday, when they got back Crosby after missing 40 games with concussion-like symptoms and All-Star defenseman Kris Letang after a five-game absence.
They didn't take long to fit in. Crosby had two assists, Letang had one and the duo was a combined plus-8 as Pittsburgh beat the Rangers 5-2 to match Boston (Nov. 1-23) for the league's longest winning streak of the season.
"I felt pretty good," Crosby said after his fifth multi-point game in nine this season. "There is still some rust there and that will take time. I felt a little more comfortable as the game went on. To get into a game like that, a big situation with the intensity, I was happy to get that first one over with and keep going."
As the Penguins (43-21-5) are getting healthy, they're also getting close to catching the Rangers for the conference's top spot. Pittsburgh trails New York by four points but also has a game in hand.
"I think we're playing pretty solid hockey these days," said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who's started eight of the nine games during the streak while posting a 1.35 goals-against average. "It's a long season - nothing's over. We have to keep going and trying to get points to catch the Rangers. Everybody feels pretty confident no matter what the score is. We always believe we can win games."
That confidence could be tested in New Jersey. The Penguins have lost their last four trips to Newark and are 1-6-2 there in their last nine, getting outscored 27-13.
Prudential Center visits have been particularly bleak for Fleury, who's 0-4-1 with a 4.10 GAA in his last five starts there. He's been pulled in two of the past three, getting the hook early in the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots in a 5-2 loss Feb. 5.
The Devils (41-25-5) have won five of six, even finding a way to get two points Thursday as their goal drought hit the 130-minute mark. After falling 3-0 at Philadelphia on Tuesday, New Jersey couldn't get any of its 33 shots past Colorado's Jean-Sebastien Giguere in regulation or overtime, but Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scored in the shootout to give the Devils a 1-0 win.
New Jersey is sixth in the East, two points back of the Flyers and four behind the Penguins. Kovalchuk, however, isn't worried about the Devils' recent scoring woes.
"I'm not really concerned - we got two points," he said. "Our next game is against Pittsburgh. It's a divisional game, and we'll have to score."
Kovalchuk hasn't had any problem doing that against the Penguins. He's scored in three straight versus Pittsburgh and has three goals and six assists in four meetings this season.
Crosby has two goals, an assist and is a minus-5 in his last seven games in New Jersey. Evgeni Malkin, who with 85 points is one ahead of Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the league lead, has one point - a goal last month - in his last five trips to Newark.