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Depleted Penguins top Kings 2-1 in OT

by Alan Robinson
PITTSBURGH -- Jordan Staal was surrounded by players who have spent most of the season as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins rather than Pittsburgh Penguins.

For at least one night, all the new faces showed they can handle playing on the NHL's main stage.

Staal, denied in the closing seconds of regulation, scored with 18.4 seconds left in overtime and the Penguins also got a goal from one of their four minor-league callups to beat the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 on Thursday night.

Shortly after Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called a timeout with a weary crew on the ice, Kings defenseman Jack Johnson turned the puck over the blue line to start a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Staal's wrist shot from the right circle clipped goalie Jonathan Quick's jersey sleeve and flew into the net.

"I just buried my head and fired it as hard as I could," Staal said.

Staal's fourth goal and first in nine games ended a goaltending duel between Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury, each of whom made a series of excellent saves in the interconference matchup. Fleury stopped 32 shots and Quick 24.

Staal's only previous overtime goal occurred four years earlier to the day, during a hat trick in Toronto.

On the day Evgeni Malkin underwent surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments and captain Sidney Crosby said there's no timetable for his return from a concussion - he hopes only that it's this season - the Penguins were understandably desperate for goals. They were limited to one goal while losing their previous two games.

Long known for offense, the Penguins had two active players who had reached double figures in goals -- Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy had 10 each. Still, they found a way to win and stayed three points behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division race.

"It's not going to be pretty hockey right now, but we did a good job of battling through it and Flower (Fleury) kept us in it," said Staal, who now finds himself centering Pittsburgh's top line rather than the third line. "This is one of those unusual things and, hopefully, we can get through it."

They'll have to do it mostly on the road, where the Penguins play nine of their next 11. For now, they're also without injured forwards Chris Kunitz and Mark Letestu. Matt Cooke served the first game of his four-game suspension for his hit from behind against Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin on Tuesday.

"The bottom line to me is this is a team with four or five regulars out of the lineup -- especially in the offensive end, this was a great chance for us," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said.

The Penguins are so depleted by injuries -- they're without the players who've scored 85 of their 163 goals -- they dressed all four forwards who were recalled earlier in the day from their AHL farm club. And their first goal came from one of them.

Brett Sterling, who shared a crowded van with those three teammates during the four-hour drive, wasted little time scoring Pittsburgh's first goal. Sterling jumped on Dustin Jeffrey's strong pass from the corner and snapped a wrist shot while skating down the slot, beating Quick to the glove side just 6:53 into the game. It was his third NHL goal and first for Pittsburgh.

"I came off the bench late on the change and I was just sneaking down the slot," Sterling said. "When you get that much time in the slot, you're hoping you can bury it."

Jeffrey, also called up after the injuries began, left in the second period with a lower body injury.

Shortly before Sterling scored, Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek guarded the side of the net to stop Justin Williams' stuff-in attempt with Fleury at the opposite side of the crease.

"It could have easily been a 1-0 lead for them," Michalek said. "It was a big momentum changer and it's the kind of play I have to make."

The Kings, 2-0-2 during a 10-game road trip, tied it at 17:17 on Jarret Stoll's 15th goal. Stoll settled down a deflected pass, steered it by Michalek in the left circle and beat Fleury between the pads.

Afterward, the Kings were disappointed not only to be limited to that lone goal, but to leave Pittsburgh with a single point. Los Angeles has five wins and two overtime losses in its last seven games, but is two points out of a playoff spot in the airtight Western Conference race.

"We've got to find ways to get two right now," captain Dustin Brown said.

"If you get points in every single game, one point, two points, that's a good road trip," Quick said. "But with that said, they have a lot of guys out of the lineup. This was a game we needed to win."

Scuderi played in Pittsburgh for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009. He received a loud ovation following a video tribute.

Scuderi is best remembered in Pittsburgh for stretching across the crease to block two shots by Detroit's Johan Franzen in Game 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final. He made a similar save against Staal in the final seconds of regulation, sending the game to overtime. Los Angeles is 7-3 in overtime, Pittsburgh is 7-4.

Bylsma joined Eddie Johnston and Michel Therrien as the only Penguins coaches with 100 victories.

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