OTTAWA (CP) - The Ottawa Senators managed to keep Sidney Crosby off the score sheet Tuesday night, but the NHL's scoring leader still managed to be the difference-maker.
"I'm trying to, anyway I can," Crosby said after notching the deciding goal in shootout to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Senators before a crowd of 20,074 at a sold-out Scotiabank Place.
Crosby, with just one point - a goal - in his last five games, turned in the clutch performance to cap off a wild finish for the Penguins (36-21-9), who rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit to win in shootout for the second straight game and third time in their past four contests overall.
He scored the deciding goal in last Thursday's shootout in a 4-3 win over the New York Rangers and the clincher in Sunday's shootout, another 4-3 victory, against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I've gotten that opportunity a couple of times and have taken advantage of it," he said. "Hopefully, the time comes when it's 5-on-5 and I'll be able to do it in regulation."
Rookie Jordan Staal and Ryan Malone each had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who saw starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury pulled after giving up three goals on seven shots in the first period, and Colby Armstrong and Gary Roberts also scored.
Jocelyn Thibault made 15 saves in relief of Fleury.
The victory, which stopped Ottawa's seven-game win streak over
Pittsburgh, brought the Penguins within a point of the Senators for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Pittsburgh also has a game in hand.
"We're a team that never quits," coach Michel Therrien said. "We won and found a way to get two points against a team that's not easy to play."
Mike Fisher, Christoph Schubert, Chris Kelly and Dany Heatley scored in regulation for the Senators (38-23-6), who blew a 3-1 third-period lead in a 4-3 shootout loss Sunday at Chicago and a 2-1 advantage en route to a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday.
Daniel Alfredsson had two assists and Ray Emery made 23 saves.
Ottawa went 2-for-9 on the power play. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, finished 0-for-4.
"Even though you have leads, you still need a big play," Emery said of the Senators' recent third-period woes. "Tonight, we needed a big play, a big save. It's just that the other teams have been making the big play. It's something we need to work through."
The Senators didn't have centre Jason Spezza, who was riding an 11-game point streak (seven goals, 12 assists) coming into the contest. He was a last-minute scratch with a back injury.
But after Armstrong put the Penguins ahead less than six minutes into the game, Fisher, with a power-play marker, and Schubert replied within a 1:55 span and the Senators didn't look like Spezza's absence would be a problem.
Kelly then added a shorthanded goal as the Senators chased Fleury, and Heatley extended his point-scoring streak to 12 games with a power-play goal early in the second.
Heatley has 10 goals and nine assists during that stretch.
However, Staal, with his league-leading seventh shorthanded goal of the season, Roberts and Malone scored within a 2:48 span of the third period to bring the Penguins level.
"It seemed like they got that shorthanded goal and they got life from it," Emery said. "They got a couple of odd-man rushes and made good plays from them. It seemed to happen really fast."
Erik Christensen beat Emery in shootout, but Evgeni Malkin was stopped.
Thibault stopped Dany Heatley and Antoine Vermette before giving up a goal to Dean McAmmond, setting the stage for Crosby's deciding goal.
Crosby appeared frustrated at times Tuesday, taking a couple of minor penalties and getting involved in an exchange with Alfredsson from the penalty box. He has just two assists in five career games against the Senators, but he came up big when it mattered most.
"Right now, he's making huge contributions, for sure," Therrien said of Crosby, who has just one regulation goal in nine games and two in 18. "That's three games in a row he's getting a big goal in shootout. That's huge.
"When the game's on the line, those are the players you want to see performing."
Notes: Left-winger Peter Schaefer shook off a shoulder injury to play his 300th game in a Senators uniform. a Ottawa begins a home-and-home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at Scotiabank Place. The rubber match at Air Canada Centre is Saturday. a Pittsburgh is home to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.