Penguins forward Carl Hagelin hopes a recent uptick in offensive production can lead to a surge in the second half of the season.
Hagelin scored with 4:15 remaining and Pittsburgh rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Wednesday night.
”It’s good to see (Hagelin) score some goals,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”He does so much for us in ways that’s tough to quantify, but he certainly helps us win. Any time he helps us by scoring goals, it makes us more difficult to play against.”
Hagelin got his fifth of the season and second in two games off a feed from Patric Hornqvist. That followed a tying goal from Chris Kunitz early in the period, his third of the season and first in 16 games.
Sidney Crosby scored his league-leading 26th goal in his 31st game and moved into a tie with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid for the league scoring lead at 42 points. Crosby, who missed six games with a concussion at the start of the season, trailed McDavid by nine points when he made his first start Oct. 25 against Florida.
The Penguins have won three straight and four of five. They have points in 10 consecutive home games and are 11-1-2 in December.
Matt Murray started for Pittsburgh and stopped 25 of 27 shots before leaving with a lower-body injury. Sullivan didn’t have an update on his condition. Marc-Andre Fleury replaced Murray for the start of the third period and made 19 saves for his 11th win.
”I thought Marc-Andre came in and did a terrific job and made some big saves in the third period,” Sullivan said. ”That’s not easy to do when you’re sitting on the bench, to have the focus he had to make those timely saves.”
Lee Stempniak scored his seventh goal and Elias Lindholm his third for the Hurricanes, who ended a three-game winning streak. Cam Ward stopped 23 shots.
”You always want to win or at least get a point,” Lindholm said. ”We were kind of sloppy in the second and third period and they scored two goals.”
Crosby scored in a season-high fifth straight game and has 11 goals this month. He has five goals and nine points during a six-game point streak. Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz had an assist and now has 18 points in his last 15 games.
Hagelin, who was acquired in a January trade from Anaheim, established career highs in the regular season and playoffs with Pittsburgh last season. He also combined with Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino to form the ”HBK Line,” which was key in helping Pittsburgh to a fourth Stanley Cup title in the spring.
Hagelin struggled through December this season with one goal and four points in 12 games before recently breaking out. Hagelin has five goals and 14 points in 37 games and hopes for more in the second half.
”I felt good all of December,” Hagelin said. ”I’ve been skating better and getting chances, but it’s always nice to get some production too.”
Both teams are dealing with injuries along the blue line.
Carolina’s Justin Faulk is week-to-week after getting a lower-body injury during an overtime win against Boston on Dec. 23. Faulk, who started the season with seven points in 22 games, had four goals and nine points in his last eight. Ryan Murphy took Faulk’s spot in the lineup alongside Ron Hainsey.
The Penguins were without three of their top defensemen on Wednesday.
Kris Letang has missed seven games with a lower-body injury, while Olli Maatta sat out his second straight game with an illness. Brian Dumoulin will miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing surgery for a broken jaw.
Trevor Daley was a surprise addition to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the previous five games with an upper-body injury.
NOTES: Hagelin accidently kicked Hurricanes F – and former Penguin – Jordan Staal in the face with his skate late in the first period. Staal got stiches during the intermission and returned for the start of the second. … Schultz is the first Penguins’ defenseman to record 17 points in a month since Sergei Zubov in March 1996. … The Penguins recalled D David Warsofsky from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but he was scratched. Tom Kuhnhackl missed his sixth game with a lower-body injury. … Carolina scratched D Klas Dahlbeck and C Andrej Nestrasil.
Hurricanes: Host Chicago on Friday night.
Penguins: Continue a three-game homestand Saturday night against Montreal.