PITTSBURGH (AP) – James Neal had a goal and two assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins rallied past the Colorado Avalanche 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Jordan Staal, Evgeni Malkin, Brooks Orpik, Pascal Dupuis and Kris Letang also scored for the Penguins, who scored four times in the third period against goalie Semyon Varlamov to overcome an early 3-1 deficit.
Neal’s power-play goal, his 12th tally of the season, in the third gave him at least one goal in each of Pittsburgh’s eight home games this season.
Marc-Andre Fleury shook off a rocky first period to finish with 24 saves.
Jay McClement, Matt Duchene and David Jones all scored first-period goals for the Avalanche, who lost to an Eastern Conference team for the first time this season.
The Avalanche had been 5-0 against Eastern Conference foes, and they appeared to be on their way to another win after lighting up Fleury in the opening 20 minutes.
Colorado beat Fleury three times in the period, the prettiest goal coming on a nifty play by the 20-year-old Duchene, who took a pass from Paul Stastny and tipped the puck between his legs to himself before easily slipping the puck into the net.
That seemed to awaken the Penguins, who dominated the final two periods.
Dupuis pulled Pittsburgh within 3-2 midway through the second. Varlamov couldn’t freeze a slap shot from Arron Asham, and the puck trickled in front of the goal, where Dupuis got just enough stick on it to send it dribbling across the goal line.
The Avalanche managed to escape the period with the lead, but the Penguins were just warming up.
Orpik tied it at 3 just over a minute into the third when his shot from the point deflected off a Colorado player and past Varlamov. Malkin put Pittsburgh in front less than 4 minutes later, deking his way past Varlamov.
Neal gave the Penguins some cushion with his power-play tally on a night he extended his point streak to seven games. Letang later added his first even-strength goal in nearly a year on a backhand as Pittsburgh needed less than 11 minutes to turn a 3-2 hole into a 6-3 lead.
The Penguins moved into a tie with Chicago for the most points in the NHL with 25 through 18 games, not bad for a club that is still playing without captain Sidney Crosby.
The 2007 NHL MVP is continuing his recovery from a pair of concussions sustained 10 months ago. Speculation has ramped up in the last two weeks that Crosby is inching closer to his highly anticipated return, though he has kept mum on the subject.
Crosby’s teammates are hardly bothered by the constant speculation. Pittsburgh is 34-17-8 in the 58 regular-season games since Crosby last played and have roared out of the gate this season behind an offense that has found an identity even without him.
The attack was buoyed on Tuesday by forward Tyler Kennedy, playing his first game since missing a month with a concussion. Kennedy assisted on Staal’s first-period goal.
The young and quickly improving Avalanche have struggled at home — winning two of eight there — but are growing up on the road. Colorado began the night tied for the league lead in road wins (six) and road points (13).
The Avalanche have done it with a sizzling power play that is tops in the league. Colorado came in scoring 41 percent of the time with the man advantage on the road. The Avalanche went 0-for-2 against the league’s best penalty-killing team and couldn’t keep up with the Penguins in the third.
NOTES: Colorado’s Milan Hejduk had an assist in his first game since being promoted to captain on Monday. … Fleury is unbeaten in regulation in his last eight games (7-0-1). … Fleury has stopped all 41 shots he has faced on the penalty kill this season. … The Penguins begin a two-game road trip in Tampa on Thursday. The Avalanche will play in Minnesota on Thursday before starting an eight-game homestand.
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