PITTSBURGH - Playing without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Pittsburgh Penguins turned to their other centers and avoided another third-period meltdown at home.
Dustin Jeffrey, Mark Letestu and Pascal Dupuis scored and the Penguins held off the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Saturday night for their first win in two tries without its injured superstar duo.
"When those guys are out of the lineup, it becomes more of a scoring by committee," said Jeffrey, called up from the minors this week to replace Malkin. "I think all of our forwards have to step up. We didn't do a very good job [in a 2-0 loss Thursday] in Jersey. As a group, we played a lot better tonight."
The Penguins limited Carolina's chances until Sergei Samsonov and Eric Staal scored over the final 4:25. That made things interesting and incited memories of two blown late two-goal leads this season at new Consol Energy Center.
Twelve days earlier, Boston scored four times in the final 3:23, turning a 2-0 Penguins' lead into a home loss. Two months to the day before that, the Bruins won 7-4 despite entering the third down 4-2.
"It was a little frustrating when it's 3-0 and then such a short time later it's 3-2," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It happened so quick, but we held on at the end and held them off."
On the ice
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No NHL team has more elite depth at center than Pittsburgh, but Crosby missed his eighth consecutive game due to a concussion. Malkin has sat out two because of a sore left knee and a sinus infection.
That left Jordan Staal as the Penguins' No. 1 center. Eric's younger brother didn't score, but he had an assist and was the only player on his team to be a plus-2 in 20:30 of ice time - tops among Pittsburgh forwards.
Staal was on the ice during most of the final frantic minutes, directed to shut down his brother's line as Carolina pressed for the equalizer.
"Given that we've had that situation in the past of letting teams back in and giving up leads late, with [Jordan] Staal's defending ability down low against guys like [Eric] Staal, there's some comfort there," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Pittsburgh has won four of five and is 4-3-1 without Crosby. The Hurricanes have lost three of four and four of six.
Samsonov ended Fleury's bid for his second shutout of the season with 4:25 to play. It was his first goal in 10 games and ninth of the season.
Eric Staal then made the Penguins' 191st consecutive sellout crowd nervous when he cut Carolina's deficit to 3-2 with 58 seconds left. Staal scored a power-play goal, putting in the rebound of Joe Corvo's shot.
Six of the Hurricanes' 26 shots were recorded over the final five minutes.
"Too little, too late," Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward said. "You need that for the whole entire game."
Pressed into much more significant roles without Crosby and Malkin, centers Letestu and Jeffrey scored the Penguins' first two goals.
Jeffrey's came after 37:14 of scoreless hockey. It was his second goal in six games this season and third in 20 career contests.
"You knew that whoever was going to score first was probably going to get an upper hand," Samsonov said.
Just 72 seconds earlier, Carolina thought they had done that. Officials initially ruled Erik Cole's shot from the right circle was a goal, but a video review quickly confirmed that the puck hit the crossbar after deflecting off the end of Fleury's stick.