Crosby and the Penguins look to be the league’s first team to 10 wins Saturday night as they try to hand the New Jersey Devils their first road loss of the season.
Pittsburgh (9-1-0) won its seventh straight Friday, rallying for a 3-2 shootout victory over visiting Florida. Crosby scored twice in the third period - a power-play goal and a short-handed score - then added the only goal in the shootout in his 300th NHL game.
“We struggled in the first half, but we were able to rebound,” Crosby said. “We stuck with things, and that shows a lot.”
Crosby entered Friday with three assists in his last two games, but he hadn’t scored in the previous four.
Besides Crosby’s heroics, Pittsburgh had another solid defensive effort despite the absence of top defenseman Sergei Gonchar(notes), who could miss up to six weeks with a broken wrist. In their first game without him, the Penguins outshot the Panthers 43-29 and held an opponent to two or fewer goals for the sixth straight game.
“It’s a good way to develop that third-period mentality, wear teams down and have a pretty good number of goals in the positive for the third period,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That is something we talk about.”
Bylsma’s team will be looking to win eight straight for the first time since Dec. 23, 2007-Jan. 10, 2008, and Crosby is hoping to again have a big night against the Penguins’ division rival. He had five goals and three assists in six games against the Devils (5-3-0) last season, including his second career hat trick Nov. 29 at home.
Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) figures to be back in net Saturday after Brent Johnson(notes) started against Florida. Fleury is 8-0-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average this season, and 4-0-2 with a 1.30 GAA in his last six starts against the Devils.
New Jersey split six meetings with the defending Stanley Cup champions last season, but was outscored 10-2 in the final two games at Mellon Arena.
“They’re at their best right now,” coach Jacques Lemaire told the Devils’ official Web site. “They’re playing great hockey. … It’s a good measuring stick for us.”
Lemaire’s team has been playing great hockey as well, but mostly on the road. While the Devils are 1-3 at home, they improved to 4-0 as visitors - their best road start since 1989 - with a 4-2 win over the Rangers on Thursday.
“I’m not sure why, but so far we’ve been a good road team,” said Zach Parise(notes), who scored twice. “We’re going to establish ourselves at home, but to be able to win on the road, that’s a sign of a good team.”
Parise has six points in the last three games, including four goals.
If the Devils hope to stay perfect on the road, they’ll likely need their best offensive player to be more productive against the Penguins. Although he led New Jersey with 45 goals and 49 assists last season, Parise was limited to two goals and one assist in six games against Pittsburgh in 2008-09.
Martin Brodeur(notes), who has started all eight games for the Devils this season, has lost three of his last four starts against the Penguins. He is one shutout behind Terry Sawchuk’s NHL record of 103.