The gritty forward scored twice on two shots and Marc-Andre Fleury made 23 saves as the Pens skated away with a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks at Mellon Arena.
"Winning's great no matter what," said Cooke, who scored 91 seconds into the game and added an empty-netter with 13 seconds left. "The kids who are up here right now are doing an unbelievable job. They're playing big minutes and we need them to. They're proving they belong."
Bill Guerin ended Pittsburgh's eight-game drought with a power-play goal and Jordan Staal scored shorthanded for the Pens, who moved into a first-place tie with New Jersey in the Atlantic.
But Guerin, 39, did much more than that. He came within an assist of recording the "Gordie Howe hat trick" (a goal, an assist and a fight). He fought in the third period with 25-year-old Ryan Getzlaf, trading several punches before Guerin put the Ducks' star on his back to earn one of the night's loudest ovations from the sellout crowd of 17,052.
"I'm handling the ups and downs better as you get older," said Guerin, who made it 2-0 with the man advantage at 5:13 of the first to end Pittsburgh's string of 30 consecutive power plays without a goal. "When you're younger, you feel like the world is crashing in on you because you haven't scored in few games. You learn how to roll with it, as long as team's winning."
"He got the hard part of the Gordie Howe," Bylsma said. "The parts he got, it was great to see the edge from his game and the shot ... one he's put in numerous times in his career. When he's at his best he's playing with an edge, and you saw that."
Todd Marchant made it a one-goal game when he scored shorthanded off a giveaway by Evgeni Malkin with 10:54 left in the first, but Staal responded with a shorthanded tally of his own by receiving Deryk Engelland's lead pass and beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere 4:09 into the second. It was the ninth shorthanded goal of Staal's career.
"I've been on teams like this before and it's never easy," Marchant said. "It's almost seems like there's never light at the end of the tunnel, but there is. There is time, time to turn this around. We have the personnel, we have the talent, we have the work ethic, we have the character in this room to do it."
With seven Penguins players injured, Engelland was one of five first-year players on the ice for Pittsburgh, which is currently missing four of its top six defensemen. Martin Skoula also contributed with his first goal of the season at 3:28 of the third. Teemu Selanne scored for Anaheim -- which fell to 6-10-3 and held a team meeting afterwards -- with 2:39 remaining when the game was already out of reach.
"We need everybody to contribute," Pens captain Sidney Crosby said. "There are some areas we still want to improve on, but I think we'll take the two points. It's not easy, especially with the guys that are missing."
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.
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