PITTSBURGH — The San Jose Sharks kept coming at Marc-Andre Fleury. From the point. From the left circle. From the right circle. From the slot. From right in front of the net.
The more shots the Sharks fired at the Pittsburgh Penguins goalie, the more creative he became. A pad here, a stick there. Fleury even found a way to make a few of his 44 stops while doing an impersonation of a snow angel in a 5-1 victory Thursday night.
“When they don’t go in, it’s fun,” Fleury said with a laugh. “It makes you feel more a part of the action.”
Of course, getting staked to a massive lead helps.
Chris Kunitz scored twice during a four-goal outburst early in the second period as Pittsburgh won its fifth straight. Pascal Dupuis, Jayson Megna and Kris Letang also scored for the Penguins, who snapped San Jose’s six-game winning streak. Sidney Crosby added three assists in his 500th career game to push his point total to an NHL-leading 42.
Despite the lopsided outcome, the Penguins weren’t exactly ready to call it a statement of any kind. It is December, after all.
“I don’t know if the score dictated how much of a good team they are,” Kunitz said. “It’ll maybe settle down the next time we play them. It’s going to be probably a closer game, but it’s nice to be opportunistic and score those goals.”
Pittsburgh rolled despite playing without star Evgeni Malkin, scratched after sustaining a lower-body injury during the morning skate. Dupuis left early in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. He will be re-evaluated Friday.
The Penguins cruised anyway while handing the Sharks just their fourth loss in regulation this season.
Tomas Hertl got his 14th goal for San Jose. Antti Niemi made 23 saves but was pulled after two periods.
“It was more our mistakes than what they did right,” San Jose forward Logan Couture said. “We weren’t ourselves. We weren’t moving pucks. We were turning it over. In the neutral zone we weren’t good. I think it was more us than them.”
The Pacific Division front-runners hardly looked like the team that came in leading the league in goal differential and had outscored opponents 24-12 over its last six games.