Sidney Crosby dangles, Jeff Carter scores twice in Avalanche’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh Penguins

Tribune Content Agency

DENVER — Sidney Crosby and the Penguins don’t need extra motivation at this stage of their season, but Crosby says he finds more fuel anyway whenever he gets to face his Halifax buddy Nathan MacKinnon.

“To compete against him, I think it’s always a big challenge,” the 35-year-old Pittsburgh captain said before facing the Avalanche. “I think it’s probably even bigger, especially the way he’s playing right now.”

That wasn’t at all a backhanded compliment, but Crosby made sure it was accompanied by one of his signature backhand shots. He scored a highlight-worthy opening goal in the Penguins’ 5-2 win Wednesday night to snap a six-game Avalanche win streak.

After an uneventful and scoreless opening period, Crosby brought the party to Ball Arena by reminding self-dubbed Hockey Capital U.S.A. why he’s one of the best to ever play the sport. He put Sam Girard in a blender while entering the offensive zone, dangling the defenseman then shoveling a backhander past Alexandar Georgiev for a 1-0 lead 1:11 after first intermission.

It jump-started a dominant second period for Pittsburgh, which is grappling for a playoff spot while the Avs (41-23-6) are all about seeding and home ice. With a win, Colorado would have reached a three-way tie for the Central Division lead with Dallas and Minnesota (both at 90 points). Not only that, but the Avs have played one fewer game than the Stars and Wild, meaning their point percentage would have surpassed both teams.

Instead, they remain in third place with a dozen games remaining. The next three are against Western Conference upstarts Arizona and Anaheim.

The rematch against Pittsburgh provided a hypothetical opportunity to retaliate against Jeff Carter for the blindside collision that concussed Cale Makar in February. There were so such theatrics; only two goals for Carter. The first turned out to be the game-winner, and the second sealed the result with 7:09 remaining. Both doubled the lead.

The Penguins scored three times in the second period, two of which were on power plays (and one on a 5-on-3). It was the first time since Feb. 9 in Tampa that the Avalanche allowed multiple power play goals in a game.

But on the other end, Colorado chopped a 3-1 deficit in half during a third-period power play. With 9:32 remaining, Devon Toews one-timed a J.T. Compher pass to give Compher his second point after an earlier goal. The Avs have now scored at least one power play goal in nine consecutive games, converting 37.9% of opportunities during that stretch.