The Pittsburgh Penguins have plenty of familiar names up and down their roster. Now they are excelling even with some prominent players on the shelf.
Sidney Crosby didn’t score any goals against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night — not in regulation, overtime or the shootout — but he assisted on two and helped the Penguins bounce back from a blown late lead and earn a 4-3 victory.
Brandon Sutter was the star this time as the Penguins played without injured center Evgeni Malkin and a slew of hurt or suspended defensemen. Sutter scored one of Pittsburgh’s two third-period goals that gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead, and then netted the only tally in the five-round shootout.
"If everybody got healthy tomorrow, you’d talk about a significant group of guys getting back in the lineup," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I don’t think how we play — expectations, style of play, game plan — really changes much by getting one or two players back or getting everybody back."
The Penguins will be without Malkin again on Thursday when they host Minnesota, but suspended forward James Neal is expected to return after serving a five-game ban.
Still, Pittsburgh has been relying on fill-ins and hasn’t missed a beat. The Eastern Conference-leading Penguins have won five straight and are 10-1-1 in their last 12.
"That’s the good part about having these guys come in and play," Bylsma said. "They know exactly how to play, and they know what the expectation is. They’ve gone out and they’ve played that way."
Sutter gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead just 1:01 after Pascal Dupuis snapped a 1-1 tie, but Pittsburgh couldn’t hold the edge.
Dupuis gave the Penguins their second lead, off a feed from Crosby at 5:25, and Sutter used a strong individual effort to make it a two-goal advantage at 6:26. Chris Kunitz had a goal and assist, and Crosby increased his NHL-leading point total to 49. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots through overtime and then five in the shootout.
Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard rallied the Rangers with goals 5:31 apart to tie it with 1:46 left in regulation.
Henrik Lundqvist got it to overtime and withstood a hard hit from Kunitz, who bowled him over in the extra session — striking the goalie in the head and taking a penalty for interference.
The Rangers, however, couldn’t take advantage of that power play as they did on Brassard’s tying goal. New York earned a standings point with its second straight shootout after not being forced to the tiebreaker round all season.
Lundqvist shook off Kunitz’s hit, he just couldn’t carry the Rangers all the way back for a win.
"It was a big point," Lundqvist said. "I played a pretty good game, I think. I just hate losing in the shootout."
Zuccarello started the comeback when he shoved in a rebound of defenseman John Moore’s shot that trickled between Fleury’s pads into the crease at 12:43. Brassard made it 3-3 when he ripped a shot from the bottom of the left circle into the top right corner of the net. It came 57 seconds after Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen went off for high-sticking.
Carl Hagelin scored for New York in the second period, and Lundqvist made 30 saves through overtime in his seventh straight start, but the Rangers dropped to 1-3-2 on their team-record, nine-game homestand.
New York was looking to win two straight, building off a shootout victory over Calgary on Sunday.
"We put some points together, and if we do this continuously, I think guys will start to feel a lot better about themselves," Rangers forward Brad Richards said.
The Penguins stayed hot despite also missing injured defensemen Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Paul Martin, and Brooks Orpik, and suspended defenseman Deryk Engelland, who received a five-game ban Wednesday.
The Rangers, who beat Pittsburgh 5-1 in the season-series opener on Nov. 6, fell to 2-14-1 when they allow the first goal.
Hagelin, who had gone eight games without a goal before he scored Sunday, tied it 1-1 with 4:25 left in the second period. It was his seventh this season
Pittsburgh had taken a 1-0 lead on its second power play of the period and the game 2:51 earlier on Kunitz’s 18th goal and team-leading ninth with a man advantage.
NOTES: Penguins D Philip Samuelsson played his second NHL game, two nights after making his debut. His father, Ulf, is a Rangers assistant coach. … Kunitz has points in 10 of 12 games: seven goals and six assists. … Moore had two assists to increase his season point total to seven.