PITTSBURGH (AP)Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins admit it was a disappointing end to last season when they blew a 3-1 series lead in the opening round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers.
A pair of lopsided wins to start the new season, including the latest against the defending Eastern Conference champions, has eased some of the sting of last year’s playoff disappointment.
Crosby had a goal and two assists, Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist, and the Penguins scored four times in the third period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-2 on Saturday night.
”You just want to start off on a good note regardless, especially how we finished,” Crosby said. ”If there’s any extra motivation, it would definitely be there for us. I think everyone is excited.”
Danton Heinen and Bryan Rust had power-play goals, while Jeff Carter and Rickard Rakell also scored for the Penguins, who have outscored opponents 12-4 in two games this season. Tristan Jarry made 34 saves for his second win.
”This is a proud group,” said coach Mike Sullivan, who is one win from 300 with Pittsburgh. ”The core group of players that have been here, they’re hungry to win. They’re willing to put the work in and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.”
Steven Stamkos scored his fourth of the season and Brayden Point got his first for the Lightning, who lost two of three on a season-opening trip. Brian Elliott made 39 saves for Tampa Bay, which beat Columbus during the first half of a back-to-back set on Friday night.
”(Pittsburgh) is a really good, skilled team,” Point said. ”They come at you in waves. Tonight just wasn’t good enough.”
Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead into the third period before Guentzel and Carter scored 1:22 apart to break it open.
Guentzel redirected Kris Letang’s point shot between Elliott’s pads at 2:28 of the third and Kasperi Kapanen found a wide-open Carter in the slot at 3:50 to give Pittsburgh a three-goal lead. Rust added another power-play goal with 6:29 left and Rakell added an empty-netter.
”I just think we were opportunistic,” Crosby said. ”I thought we did a good job of playing tight hockey, waiting for our chances and capitalizing on them.”
Stamkos opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 4:10 of the first. He beat Jarry to the glove side with a slap shot from the top of the left circle.
Crosby responded with 3 minutes left in the period with a highlight-reel goal. On a 2-on-1, Guentzel slid a pass to Crosby, who beat Elliott with a forehand-to-backhand deke from the top of the crease.
Heinen put Pittsburgh in front 2-1 with a power-play goal at 4:11 of the second. He beat Elliott with a bad-angle wrist shot near the goal-line.
CLIMBING THE CHARTS
Crosby now has 1,415 career points, passing Doug Gilmour for 19th-place on the NHL’s all-time points list. Crosby has 896 assists, moving past Phil Housley for sole possession of 20th-place on the NHL’s all-time list. Crosby, with six points in two games this season, has 423 career multi-point efforts, most among all active players and 11th-most all-time.
Guentzel, with 163 career goals, is one from tying Ron Francis for 11th-place in team history. He’s two goals from tying Martin Straka for 10th with the Penguins. Guentzel has nine goals and 17 points in his last 10 games dating back to last season.
HOT START FOR STAMKOS
Stamkos has four of Tampa Bay’s eight goals this season. He has goals in all three Tampa Bay games. Stamkos also recorded his 492nd career assist and passed Vincent Lecavalier for sole possession of the second-most assists in franchise history.
Since the end of the 2021-22 regular season, Stamkos has points in 12 consecutive regular-season games and 11 multi-point efforts during that span. Stamkos has 19 goals and 45 points in his last 23 regular-season games.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, Stamkos has at least one point in 13 of his last 15 games against Pittsburgh.
COLE INVESTIGATION CLOSED
Before the game, the NHL announced it concluded its investigation into anonymous allegations posted on social media against Lightning defenseman Ian Cole. The league said it found no evidence to substantiate the sexual assault allegations, which were made anonymously in a social media post last week. The investigation was conducted by the league’s security and legal departments.
Cole, who signed with Tampa Bay in July, has played for six teams during a 13-year NHL career. He also won two Stanley Cups during a four-year run in Pittsburgh.
Lightning: Host Philadelphia on Tuesday in their home opener.
Penguins: Play their first road game of the season Monday at Montreal.