Crosby scores twice as Penguins snap Kraken's nine-game winning streak
“Quite honestly we just try to stay out of his way,” Sullivan said. “He thinks it better than we do.”
And still plays it — even at age 36 and in the middle of his 19th season — better than most.
Crosby scored twice to move within one of Hall of Famer Mark Recchi for 21st on the all-time goals list as the Penguins ended Seattle's franchise-record nine-game winning streak with a 3-0 win on Monday.
Tristan Jarry turned aside all 22 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season as Pittsburgh handed Seattle its first loss of any kind since Dec. 18 and its first loss in regulation since Dec. 10.
The Kraken came in riding a month of occasionally spectacular play that's vaulted them into the thick of the playoff chase in the loaded Western Conference as the season reaches its midpoint. Playing the fourth game of a six-game East Coast road swing and forced to go without three regulars in defenseman Vince Dunn, center Matty Beniers and forward Andre Burakovsky, Seattle mustered little against Jarry and a Pittsburgh team smarting after consecutive overtime losses to Vancouver and Carolina.
“I just didn’t think we executed well enough,” Kraken center Jaden Schwartz said. “We looked a little tired at times. Just didn’t have that same jump and energy.”
The Penguins, frustrated after slow starts plagued them in overtime losses to Vancouver and Carolina, looked fresh during the somewhat impromptu matinee crowd. The teams agreed to move up the originally scheduled game time from 6 p.m. to 1 p.m. to avoid a direct conflict with the NFL playoff matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills, which was moved from Sunday to Monday after a blizzard drilled Western New York over the weekend.
The Penguins controlled play for long stretches in the opening period and finally broke through early in the second during a pretty sequence that began with a stretch pass from Marcus Pettersson to Evgeni Malkin. Malkin then chipped the puck to a streaking Bryan Rust, who threaded a backhand pass to O'Connor that O'Connor fired by Joey Daccord 49 seconds into the second.
Crosby, sprinting up the NHL's all-time scoring list in the middle of his 19th season, collected his 575th a couple of minutes later when he went down to one knee in the right circle to blast a one-timer past Daccord 3:32 into the second. His 576th came on an empty netter in the final minutes.
Seattle had trailed for all of 56:50 during its nine-game run, more than half of that coming in an overtime victory over Philadelphia on Dec. 29. Daccord made 30 saves but for the first time in a while there would be no rally.
The Kraken and their roster littered with former Penguins — including two-time Stanley Cup winner Brian Dumoulin, who left in free agency for Seattle last summer — found little open space against a team that is now 10-3-3 over its last 16 games.
Crosby has been in the thick of the resurgence. He's on pace for his first 50-goal season since 2009-10 and at his pace, he should pass Recchi in relatively short order and maybe even catch Jari Kurri in 20th at 601 before the end of the season.
It's a heady total for a franchise icon long considered more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He's found a way to do both over his nearly two decades in Pittsburgh, his unique ability to diagnose what his team needs and try to provide it nearly unparalleled.
The Penguins have struggled to score goals in general this season, particularly on the power play. Crosby has responded by shooting more frequently. It's working.
“Sid, he takes what the game gives him,” Sullivan said. “When the plays are there to make a play, he does. When there’s opportunities to put the puck at the net and shoot the puck, he does.”
Kraken: Visit the New York Rangers on Tuesday.
Penguins: Head west for a two-game road trip starting in Las Vegas on Saturday.
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