Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Steve Sullivan and Evgeni Malkin scored within a 7-minute stretch of the first period to power the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Ottawa Senators 6-3 on Friday night.
Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal also scored for the Penguins while Sidney Crosby collected three assists in his third game back from concussion-like symptoms.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots as Pittsburgh bounced back from an overtime loss to St. Louis on Wednesday.
The Penguins ripped off four goals in the game’s first 10 minutes, chasing Ottawa’s Chris Anderson, who stopped just four of the eight shots he faced before giving way to Alex Auld.
Pittsburgh was stifled for long stretches of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues on Wednesday, putting a damper on Crosby’s return following a 10-month layoff.
The former MVP lit up the New York Islanders for two goals and two assists in his season debut on Monday, but spent his second game getting clutched, grabbed and for the most part shut down against the Blues. He even picked up three penalties and got involved in a brief shoving match with St. Louis captain David Backes.
He was just as testy Friday. He absorbed a clean check from Ottawa’s Nick Foligno in the second period and tried to get a little payback in the third, mixing it up with Foligno in front of the Senators net. The two traded a couple of checks before Foligno started looking for more. At that point Kunitz jumped in to stick up for his captain, though Crosby earned a minor for roughing for his efforts.
Crosby and Kunitz were out on the ice with James Neal at the time rather than regular linemate Dupuis, as coach Dan Bylsma experimented with his lines while the Penguins nursed a big lead.
It was a welcome change to recent weeks in which the Penguins have slept-walked through the opening 20 minutes — Crosby’s debut excluded — before roaring to life.
Then again, the Senators gave Pittsburgh a pretty early wake-up call. Ottawa’s Kaspars Daugavins collected a shot from teammate Zack Smith and slipped it by Fleury to give the Senators a quick 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game.
Their momentum lasted all of 27 seconds, or the amount of time it took Pittsburgh to tie it up following a breathtaking end-to-end rush. Crosby faked a slapshot on the break then threaded a pass to Kunitz, who fired it into the wide open net.
The Penguins were just getting started, scoring four goals over the next 7:25 to chase Anderson, who had no real chance on any of the tallies.
Kennedy gave the Penguins the lead, banking the puck off Anderson’s pads and into the net from a thin angle behind the goal line.
The bad bounces didn’t stop there for Anderson. Sullivan threw it in front only to have it go off the stick of an Ottawa defenseman and by Anderson to make it 3-1.
Malkin notched his seventh of the season less than 2 minutes later, ripping one by Anderson from the high slot.
Anderson has struggled at times this season despite coming in with a 9-6-1 record. His save percentage of .895 at the start of the night ranked 51st in the league.
The number took a nosedive as the Penguins put it away early, showcasing the kind of firepower and depth that arguably makes them the best team in the league with Crosby back in the fold.
NOTES: Fleury recorded the ninth assist of his career on Kennedy’s goal. … Ottawa finished its six-game road trip with a 3-2-1 mark. … The crowd of 18,610 was the largest in the Consol Energy Center’s history. … The Penguins travel to Montreal on Saturday while the Senators host Carolina on Sunday.