PITTSBURGH (AP)—The No. 1 draft pick is playing even better than the Pittsburgh Penguins expected, giving them hope in a season that has been a lost cause almost from the start.
Crosby had his second two-goal game in three games and Fleury turned aside 44 shots in another strong game as the Penguins ended a six-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night.
“Marc-Andre was phenomenal and we capitalized on our chances and did a lot of good things,” said Michel Therrien, who got his first victory as Pittsburgh’s coach after 15 days and four consecutive one-goal losses.
Tomas Surovy also scored twice and defenseman Ric Jackman, a healthy scratch in three of the previous six games, scored Pittsburgh’s first goal and set up the second to help the Penguins open a 4-0 lead. Pittsburgh had dropped 12 of 13 and hadn’t won since beating Colorado on Dec. 10.
Mostly, though, this one belonged to the kids: the 18-year-old Crosby and 21-year-old Fleury, whose combined age (39) is one year less than 40-year-old Penguins owner-player Mario Lemieux.
Crosby has five goals in four games, including two against Philadelphia on Friday, and now has 18 goals and 40 points in 36 games. Fleury’s record is a deceiving 3-7-3, but he has played very well despite facing 32 or more shots all but once in his last five starts.
“It’s all right now. I think I’ve showed what I can do here,” Fleury said. “I’d like to win a lot more games.”
So would Crosby, who wouldn’t have believed the Penguins would have only nine victories two days away from the new year. Crosby likes how his former Team Canada junior teammate, Fleury, is playing, but worries about the heavy workload he is facing nightly.
“You don’t want to make his job more difficult, make him have to face 45-46 shots every night,” Crosby said. “But there’s a confidence level with him right now, and that’s the most important thing. I think things are starting to get better with us. We have to keep going and keep improving.”
The Devils lost their 10th in 13 games a night after beating Washington 7-2 as backup goalie Scott Clemmensen stopped only 19 of 25 shots. Clemmensen, 2-4-2 this season and 0-1-1 against Pittsburgh, made his first start since Dec. 5 and remained winless since Oct. 29.
“We didn’t give up a lot of shots, but it seemed like when we did it was a breakdown—an odd-man rush or a fluky play around the net,” Clemmensen said. “It seemed like I couldn’t do anything right for a stretch.”
Scott Gomez tightened it up by scoring his 10th and 11th goals to make it 4-2 early in the third as the Devils outshot the Penguins 35-15 in the final two periods. But Surovy and Crosby sealed it by scoring their second goals of the game.
“It was 4-0 before you knew it,” Gomez said. “But give Pittsburgh all the credit. We’re a fragile team right now, and they did what they needed to do.”
Surovy, whose first goal came on a give-and-go with Ziggy Palffy, was credited with fourth of the season when his pass intended for Crosby deflected off defenseman Paul Martin’s skate and past Clemmensen about 6 minutes into the third period.
Crosby scored again with about 6 minutes remaining, taking Palffy’s pass at the right edge of the crease and missing his first attempt before stuffing in his second. Crosby has four multigoal games in his rookie season.
New Jersey went 1-for-8 with the man advantage a night after going 3-for-10 — almost as many goals as it had scored in a month on the power play. Before Wednesday’s game, the Devils were 4-of-100 on the power play over a 14-game stretch.
Lou Lamoriello is 2-4 as New Jersey’s interim coach following Larry Robinson’s resignation. … Devils F Patrik Elias did not play, but could make his season debut Saturday. He has missed the season with hepatitis A. … The Penguins are 5-9-5 at home. … Lemieux, the Penguins’ other former No. 1 draft pick, remained out with an irregular heartbeat. … The four-goal margin of victory matched Pittsburgh’s largest of the season. They beat the Islanders 5-1 on Nov. 3.