PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sidney Crosby left briefly after taking a stick to the face then returned and picked up his NHL-leading 21st goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins crushed the Arizona Coyotes 7-0 on Monday night.
Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson, Trevor Daley, Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino and Justin Schultz also scored for the Penguins, who won their season-high sixth straight by throttling the struggling Coyotes to celebrate coach Mike Sullivan’s first-year on the job in style. Matt Murray finished with 32 saves while picking up his third career shutout.
Arizona’s Mike Smith, the lone bright spot for a team with the fewest victories in the league, stopped 18 of 22 shots before being pulled midway through the second period. The Coyotes are 1-4-3 in their last eight games.
Crosby received treatment between the first and second periods after getting whacked in the mouth by Arizona’s Martin Hanzal. The sellout crowd cheered when Crosby returned to the bench about three minutes into the second. The roar grew considerably louder when he added to his rapidly growing collection of highlight-worthy goals this season.
The Penguins were already comfortably in front late in the second when Evgeni Malkin’s shot from the point bounced off the post and high into the air. Standing just outside the crease, Crosby waited for the puck to fall below the crossbar then swatted it out of midair, replicating a goal he scored against Dallas earlier this month when he smacked the puck off Stars goaltender Antti Niemi.
By then, the matter was already well in hand for Pittsburgh, which improved to 52-23-8 in the regular season since Sullivan replaced Mike Johnston on Dec. 12, 2015. Sullivan’s arrival galvanized an underachieving club and provided the spark that eventually ended with the Penguins capturing the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup last June.
Pittsburgh is right back in the thick of it once again behind Crosby, whose remarkable surge coincided with Sullivan’s promotion. Crosby’s 48 goals and 42 assists since Jan. 1, 2016 are the most in the NHL.
The struggling Coyotes did little to slow the high-flying Penguins. At times, Arizona even seemed intent on helping Pittsburgh move into a tie with the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins were up 1-0 in the second when Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson attempted to clear the puck from behind the Arizona net. His pass, however, went right to Bonino, who buried it by Smith 4:30 into the second. Daley made it 3-0 less than three minutes later when Michael Stone intercepted a centering pass from Kessel only to lose control of it. The puck just sat there in the slot for Daley to power home to send Smith to the bench.
NOTES: The Penguins have outscored opponents 36-14 during their winning streak. The Coyotes have scored 62 goals on the season (29 games). … Louis Domingue filled in for Smith and made nine saves on 12 shots. … Pittsburgh went 2 for 7 on the power play. The Coyotes were 0 for 3 with the man advantage. … Arizona scratched Ds Connor Murphy and Kevin Connauton and F Anthony Duclair. … Pittsburgh scratched D Steve Olesky and C Eric Fehr.
Coyotes: Visit Detroit on Tuesday night. Arizona is 0-3-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
Penguins: Continue a three-game homestand on Wednesday night against Boston.
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