PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby hadn't scored at home in four months. One brilliant sequence ended the drought.
The Pittsburgh star intercepted a pass, pirouetted around a pair of New Jersey defensemen, broke in all alone on Martin Brodeur and flipped a wrist shot into the back of the net to thwart a Devils' rally early in the third period in the Penguins' 5-2 victory Sunday night.
"It's not unlike Sidney Crosby to do that," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Crosby's last goal at Consol Energy Center came in his electric season debut on Nov. 21. He played just eight games before heading to injured reserve when concussion-like symptoms resurfaced and missed more than three months.
Though he'd been steady since his return on March 15 - picking up nine assists in his first five games - he didn't score his third goal of the year until Saturday, the lone bright spot in an 8-4 loss to Ottawa.
The Penguins knew they needed to rebound quickly to keep pace with the New York Rangers in the battle for the Eastern Conference crown. When Ilya Kovalchuk's goal 3:37 into the third period cut Pittsburgh's lead to 3-2, Crosby went to work.
Flashing the speed and creativity that made him arguably the best player in the world before sustaining a debilitating concussion in January 2011, Crosby's fourth goal of the year deflated the Devils.
"That hurts a little bit when you do make it 3-2, you get some life and they get one back," New Jersey's Zach Parise said. "That was frustrating."
Evgeni Malkin chipped in an empty-net goal and an added assist for the Penguins to push his points total to 97, tops in the NHL. Pittsburgh has won 10 straight at Consol Energy Center and moved back within a point of the Rangers for the top stop in the Eastern Conference with seven games remaining.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Crosby said. "We did some good things. I still think we got better, which is a good thing. To bounce back that way after giving up eight goals and not playing the way we wanted to was important."
Brodeur made 23 saves, but couldn't stop the slumping Devils from falling to 1-3-1 in their last five games.
"You want to get into the playoffs as soon as possible and you want to get in feeling good about yourself and not just dogging it in," Brodeur said. "We're doing a lot of good things. We've had a rough patch but we've played some really good hockey teams lately."
Marc-Andre Fleury made it stand up to pick up his NHL-leading 41st victory to move within one win of tying Tom Barrasso's franchise mark of 226.
The Penguins needed Fleury to be sharp after arguably their worst game in three months. Pittsburgh saw its chase of the Rangers hit a speed bump on Saturday, when Ottawa torched backup goaltender Brad Thiessen.
The loss, coupled with New York's comeback win over Toronto put the Penguins three points back of the Rangers and just two ahead of Philadelphia in the jumbled Atlantic Division.