Kessel, Malkin key victory
RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.”
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.”
Kessel capped a fast-paced flurry of scoring early in the second period, scoring two goals in 2 minutes, 14 seconds for his third two-goal game of the season.
After Teravainen pulled the Hurricanes to 2-1, Kessel blasted a feed from Guentzel past Ward at 6:11. Kessel then effectively put the game out of reach by stuffing the puck past Ward for his 26th goal of the season, with a brief official review confirming that the puck completely crossed the red line.
Carl Hagelin thought he had a goal for Pittsburgh early in the third, but it was erased when an official review determined the puck was kicked into the net.
On the ice
Tonight: Pittsburgh Penguins at Florida Panthers, 7 p.m.
Records: Penguins (36-22-4-76); Panthers (27-25-6-60)
TV: AT&T Sports Network