Kessel, Malkin ignite Pens’ sixth straight victory
The Pittsburgh Penguins made plenty of moves Friday night — on the ice, with the roster and in the standings.
Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin each had two goals and an assist and the Penguins moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division by routing the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1 for their season-best sixth straight victory.
And general manager Jim Rutherford was just as busy as his players were, pulling off a mid-game trade in which Pittsburgh picked up center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators as part of a push for a third straight Stanley Cup.
“Obviously, we’re going for it,” forward Patric Hornqvist said. “And that’s the kind of organization you want to play for, who always tries to get better, and that’s what we try to do every day we’re on the ice, too.”
As part of the complicated three-team deal, the Penguins sent defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa and forward Ryan Reaves to the Vegas Golden Knights.
“It was interesting leading up to the pre-game meeting, for obvious reasons,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
Jake Guentzel had a goal and two assists, Sidney Crosby scored a late goal and Olli Maatta also scored. The Penguins took control with three goals — two by Kessel — in a 7:39 span in the second period.
Matt Murray made 27 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won 11 of 13 to overtake idle Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Since the Penguins were shut out by Carolina on Jan. 4, they are 16-3-1.
“We’ve been playing good hockey here, and we need to continue to do that,” Crosby said. “Hopefully, we can stay with the pace here and keep going.”
Teuvo Teravainen scored and Cam Ward stopped 33 shots for the short-handed Hurricanes, who have gone 0-3-1 during a four-game slide that’s keeping them outside the Eastern Conference playoff race.
They played without physical center Jordan Staal, who missed the game because of a family concern — and his absence certainly was felt against Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and the rest of the Penguins’ lineup.
“The storyline is, they outworked us and they showed us they wanted it more tonight,” said forward Justin Williams, an alternate captain with Staal out. “That’s frustrating, because we’ve got to be better, and certainly I’m at the top of that list.”