The thousands of Pittsburgh fans who made the trip to Columbus on Saturday night got almost everything they could have wanted.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins put on a show before a sellout crowd of 19,143 at Nationwide Arena -- many of whom were wearing various Pittsburgh jerseys -- with Sid scoring twice to extend his scoring streak to 15 games in a 7-2 victory that extended their winning streak to nine games.
Pittsburgh-to-Columbus is the shortest trip of any interconference matchup, and droves of Pens fans made the trip. They were rewarded by a devastating performance -- the outcome was all but decided when Crosby's power-play goal 15:49 into the game made it 4-0 -- and the only disappointment might have been not seeing Crosby get his third hat trick in four games.
"We capitalized on a few mistakes they made," said Crosby, who has 17 goals and 14 assists during his streak and leads the NHL with 23 goals and 47 points. "That helped. Obviously when you get a few and get a lead, they start thinking a bit where maybe they need to change things. We were happy with the start."
Paul Martin sandwiched a pair of power-play goals around a tally by Michael Rupp before Crosby's first goal ended goalie Steve Mason's night. The Penguins outshot Columbus 16-2 in the opening period.
"It's probably just our level of competing every night," said Crosby, who played sparingly after his second goal at 9:55 of the second period made it 6-1 -- helping to keep him from notching another hat trick. "The last week, two weeks, (it's) the willingness to compete every night. That's the biggest thing and it's not easy to do."
The Jackets dropped their fifth in a row despite goals by Samuel Pahlsson and Chris Clark and two assists from Ethan Moreau. The five losses in the past nine days matched their total in the previous 33, and were outscored 12-2 in back-to-back losses to the Sabres and Penguins.
"There's nowhere to go but up," said defenseman Mike Commodore, who had Martin's pass go off his skate to open the scoring. "They were all over us right from the beginning. They have a good team. We got off to a rough start."
Crosby has an NHL-high 23 goals in 28 games. Last season he didn't score his 22nd goal until the 34th game en route to tying for the league lead with 51 goals.
"When you've got it going, you try to keep going," he said of his scoring surge. "Keep shooting the puck."
Flyers 5, Devils 3 | HIGHLIGHTS
Mike Richards scored the go-ahead goal 3:37 into the third period and Claude Giroux and Danny Briere each had his team-leading 13th of the season as the Flyers snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Devils at the Wells Fargo Center.
James van Riemsdyk and Jeff Carter also scored and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 23 shots for the Flyers, who lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Devils a week earlier.
"It was good to finally win a tight game," Briere said. "Even though they have struggled this year, we always fight hard against each other."
The Devils held a pair of one-goal leads thanks to Ilya Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac, but lost their second straight and third in four games. Johan Hedberg, making his sixth start in a row start as Martin Brodeur rests an elbow injury, made 29 saves.
Richards gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead, their first in two games against the Devils this season, when he redirected a Chris Pronger drive from the blue line past Hedberg for his 10th goal of the season.
"I saw the initial release, but it just found a hole," Hedberg said. "This was another big game for us to try to find our winning ways. It's not about lack of effort. Philly is a good team."
Briere added insurance at 8:07 when he got free of Devils defenseman Andy Greene, drove to the net and converted a pass from Carter, who was headed behind the left side of the net and dropped a pass for Briere to beat Hedberg inside the post.
That goal proved to be the game-winner when Patrik Elias scored a power-play goal with 44 seconds remaining. The Devils actually had a 6-on-4 advantage with Scott Hartnell off for tripping and Hedberg pulled for an extra attacker. It was New Jersey's second power-play goal of the game after it had managed just one of those on the road all season entering Saturday.
With Hedberg on the bench again, Carter scored his 12th goal into an empty net with 1.1 seconds left. About 10 seconds earlier, Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner and Richards each swung their sticks at an airborne puck sent out in front of the Flyers' net. Richards' stick hit Langenbrunner in the face, cutting him and drawing blood, but play continued.
"They definitely missed one," Devils coach John MacLean said. "Nothing you can do about it. What are you going to do? They're going to say no, and we're going to say yeah, and we'll watch the video and it'll bear out that they did miss one."
Sabres 1, Senators 0 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS
Thomas Vanek became the only player to put the puck in the net at Scotiabank Place when he scored in the third round of the shootout to give the Sabres their second shutout victory in as many nights.
Vanek got within 15 feet of Brian Elliott and blasted a slap shot into the far corner. Miller, who made 32 saves through 65 minutes, then completed his shutout when Jason Spezza missed the net.
"Both goalies played great," Vanek said. "We kept shooting and we couldn't break either goalie."
Miller had to make only 19 saves in Friday's 5-0 victory against Columbus, but was tested much more severely this time. He earned his 19th career shutout and hasn't been scored on for 148 minutes, 14 seconds.
Elliott was just as good with 31 saves through 65 minutes, but the Senators (11-15-1) continued to search for their scoring touch. Ottawa has now been shut out in their last two games and haven't scored in 178 minutes, 30 seconds. The Senators have won just three of their last 12 and allowed 38 goals while scoring just 17.
"We haven't scored in a while and sometimes you overthink things," Ottawa center Mike Fisher said.. "Sometimes it's tough. We're going to get our breaks, we're going to get rolling and we just need to work through it."
Lightning 6, Avalanche 5 | HIGHLIGHTS
It wasn't pretty, but the Lightning bounced back from an 8-1 drubbing in Boston by holding off the Avs at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne each had a second-period goal and added a pair of assists. Third-period goals by Ryan Malone and Sean Bergenheim made it 6-3 -- and that proved to be just enough, as Colorado pulled within one on goals by Brandon Yip at 17:49 and Milan Hejduk at 18:54, but couldn't get the equalizer.
"We were resilient right up until the end of the game," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Overall, for 60 minutes, we need to play better. There is no question about that. That is not good enough against that team tonight."
Boucher was happy with the victory, but not with the fact that his team couldn't put away the Avs, who had won six in a row against Tampa Bay.
"That was a big letdown," Boucher said. "We score some goals and especially when we're two or three goals ahead, we have a tendency to change things. We want to mature as a team."
Predators 5, Hurricanes 2 | HIGHLIGHTS
Nashville rode first-period goals by Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber and Marcel Goc to a victory against the visiting Hurricanes.
ookie goaltender Anders Lindback, filling in for injured starter Pekka Rinne, made 28 stops in his first NHL start since Nov. 7, improving to 4-1-1 this season. Rinne had left knee surgery on Friday, meaning Lindback will be the starter for the next few weeks.
"It's my job to be ready anytime when Peks is gone," Lindback said. "I'm just going to have to do my best and try to help the team to win."
Cal O'Reilly and Steve Sullivan had the other goals for the Predators, who have won three straight. Joe Corvo and Jiri Tlusty scored for Carolina, which has dropped three of four.
"We made some big mistakes that caused us problems," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We are prone to trying doing too many big things instead of a bunch of little things."
Hornqvist banged in a rebound at 2:33, Weber picked up his fourth goal midway through the first and Goc added a wrister with 3:59 left in the opening period to make it 3-1.
"I thought we got off to a nice start, executed pretty well, and got some nice goals," coach Barry Trotz said. "When you score some goals in the first, it obviously gives you some confidence."
Tlusty had the only goal in the second, and Nashville put it away with two in the third. O'Reilly scored at 8:44 and Sullivan added an empty-netter with 2:50 left.
Stars 4 , Wild 3 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS
Stephane Robidas saved the day for the Stars, scoring a power-play goal 3:37 into overtime to give Dallas its sixth win in a row.
Dallas blew two leads as the Wild rallied to force OT. But with Brent Burns serving a tripping penalty, Robidas' innocent-looking shot from the high slot got past screened goalie Jose Theodore.
"It wasn't a great shot. I got lucky it went in," Robidas said after his sixth career game-winner and second in overtime. "I had it in my mind to shoot it right away, so I just put it to the net and it went in. Maybe that threw (Theodore) off, too. It's one of those goals that's maybe not a pretty goal, but I'll take it."
Adam Burish put Dallas ahead early in the third period, Karlis Skrastins notched his first goal of the season, and Steve Ott scored during a power play for the Stars, 8-0-1 in their last nine at home.
"That's the character of this team, especially at home, we've played great hockey," Ott said. "We've continued to do good things at crucial times of the game. Tonight, the power play shows up in overtime, we win a hockey game."
Kari Lehtonen made 28 saves for Dallas.
Antti Miettinen, Chuck Kobasew and Martin Havlat scored for Minnesota, which rallied from deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. Havlat forced OT when he scored from in front with 3:09 left in regulation.
Minnesota is 1-5-2 in its last eight games, however coach Todd Richards said his struggling team's comeback was a step in the right direction.
"I'd have liked to have two (points), but the point that we got shows a lot of character of the group," Richards said. "Down 2-0, it could have been a game you pack in and say you didn't have it."
The Stars have won six straight for the first time since a seven-game streak from Jan. 29-Feb. 11, 2008.
Dallas coach Marc Crawford was especially pleased to see his team win on a night it didn't play well.
"I thought we gutted it out in the third period and we didn't have our best stuff," Crawford said. "Part of it is Minnesota really played well, and they're desperate right now. Give them credit. They played with desperation, especially late. So on that side, we're really happy with the way our guys dug in and found a way."
Oilers 2, Blues 1 (OT) | HIGHLIGHTS
Taylor Hall's breakaway goal 23 seconds into OT gave the Oilers their fourth consecutive victory.
For NHL.com's complete game story, click here
Panthers 2, Coyotes 1 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS
Michael Frolik had Florida's lone goal in regulation and got the shootout winner as the Panthers won in Phoenix.
For NHL.com's complete story, click here