Even with the NHL’s reigning scoring champion sidelined, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been scoring more goals than they know what to do with.
Don’t expect them to lend any to the struggling New York Rangers.
The Penguins, fresh off consecutive seven-goal performances, will seek their fourth straight win on Tuesday when they visit their Atlantic Division rivals for the first of three meetings between the teams in the next two weeks.
Star center Sidney Crosby, who led the league with 120 points last season, has missed the last two games and 23 of the last 26 due to a sprained ankle, and he said Friday he wouldn’t play for another week.
But the Penguins (41-24-7) have still managed seven goals in each of the last two contests without him, and they’re 13-6-4 this season with Crosby sidelined. They’ve won five of the last six overall, moving within a point of Eastern Conference-leading New Jersey on Sunday.
Pittsburgh hadn’t scored seven goals in a game since last season before doing it in consecutive wins over Buffalo and Philadelphia.
It helps that the Penguins have a different player with a chance at the NHL points title leading the way. Evgeni Malkin had two goals and two assists in Sunday’s 7-1 win over the Flyers, and has 97 points for the season, leaving him two behind league leader Alexander Ovechkin of Washington.
Malkin has 40 points in the 23 games Crosby has missed.
“He may be the best player in the league right now, and you have to respect that fact,” Flyers coach John Stevens said.
But the Penguins have also displayed their depth, as nine different players have scored at least one goal in the last two games. That doesn’t include recently acquired Pascal Dupuis, who has five assists in those games.
Petr Sykora also had two goals and two assists Sunday, giving him four goals and four assists in the last four games, while Marian Hossa tallied a goal and an assist in his first game back after he missed the previous six with a knee injury. Hossa, who’s expected to play on a line with Crosby when he returns, had been injured in his first game with the Penguins after coming over with Dupuis from Atlanta at the trade deadline.
Even defenseman Hal Gill scored his first goal as a Penguin on Sunday - also his first since New Year’s Day, when he was with Toronto.
“That’s what you need when your top guy goes out,” forward Ryan Malone said. “There’s no reason when Sid comes back that we can’t have the same desperation, the same attitude. He’s just going to add to us.”
There hasn’t been much urgency recently for the Rangers (37-26-9), who’ve lost two straight, scoring just two total goals in the last two games. They had gone 10-0-3 in their previous 13, averaging 3.3 goals.
They were shut out by the last-place team in the East on Saturday in a 3-0 loss to Tampa Bay, and they stand just four points ahead of Buffalo, the conference’s ninth-place team.
“We give an effort like this, this is what happens,” Rangers center Scott Gomez said. “Everyone should be pretty upset with themselves, but in saying that, we know what type of team we are. We can’t dwell on this.”
New York has gone 3-2-0 against the Penguins this season, and has won three straight at home against Pittsburgh, holding the Penguins to three total goals in those games.
The teams, separated by six points in the Atlantic Division, also meet in a home-and-home series on March 30 and 31.