- Associated Press - Monday, December 5, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan keeps insisting there isn’t a switch his team can flip that makes two-goal deficits vanish within a matter of minutes.

It just seems that way.

Bryan Rust had his first career hat trick, Sidney Crosby added his NHL-leading 17th goal and the Penguins raced past the Ottawa Senators 8-5 on Monday night. Pittsburgh poured in six goals over the final 32 minutes after spotting the Senators a 4-2 lead.

“This group has provided enough evidence that regardless of what happens, we have the firepower, the talent level, the capability to win games,” Sullivan said. “There’s a belief that regardless of what the score is, we can win.”

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each had a goal and two assists for the Penguins, and Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz also scored. Matt Murray made 17 saves after relieving an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.

“Anytime you’re forced to change goalies it gets everybody’s attention,” Cullen said.

Pittsburgh has won three straight overall and improved to 7-0-2 in its last nine against the Senators. The Penguins also won a game in which they trailed by two for the 13th time since Sullivan took over as coach last December.

“This team (Pittsburgh), you just open the door a little bit and they’ll just barge in,” Ottawa coach Guy Boucher said. “So, we have to be better with a two-goal lead, that’s for sure. We’ll learn how to do that.”

Matt Stone had a goal and two assists for the Senators. Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Ottawa, which lost in regulation for just the second time in its last eight games.

Craig Anderson spent most of the night under siege by the Penguins and stopped 36 of the 43 shots he faced before being pulled following Rust’s successful penalty shot 12:36 into the third. Rust picked up his first hat trick since his college days playing for Notre Dame on an empty-netter with 2:28 remaining. The crowd waited until the goal was upheld on review before showering the ice with hats.

“I just think they didn’t think I would get a hat trick,” joked Rush, who finished with four points in all.

Rust opened the scoring by taking a pretty feed from Malkin and jamming it by Anderson just 1:45 into the game, setting the tone for a wild three periods that produced 13 goals on a combined 80 shots.

The Senators chased Fleury when Hoffman pounded home a one-timer from the right circle to make it 4-2 at 7:08 of the second period. Fleury stopped 12 of 16 shots and was hurt by shoddy play in front of him and at least one bad bounce: Stone knocked a carom off the glass behind the Pittsburgh goal out of midair and into the open net.

“You hate to leave your goalie hanging out to dry,” Cullen said. “The goals we gave up, there were a couple that were unfortunate. “

Murray entered to a loud ovation from the 445th consecutive sellout crowd in Pittsburgh and his team responded almost immediately, scoring three times in a span of 6:09 to take the lead. Cullen’s short-handed breakaway sparked the surge. Kessel tied it with a nasty wrist shot from between the circles and Schultz finished it with a wrist shot of his own to give the Penguins a 5-4 lead.

Ottawa stuck with Anderson, making his first start since taking a brief leave of absence to be with his wife as she battles throat cancer, even after the deluge. It backfired. Malkin squeezed past two defenders to flip a backhand by Anderson 1:05 into the third to put the Penguins up 6-4.

Phaneuf brought the Senators back within one with Ottawa’s third power-play goal, but Pittsburgh’s beleaguered penalty killers finally got a stop a couple of minutes later and Rust went high with the backhand on his penalty shot to give the Penguins the breathing room they needed.

NOTES: Ottawa went 3 for 5 on the power play. The Senators had scored just 10 times with the man advantage coming in. … Pittsburgh went 0 for 4 on the power play. … Pittsburgh has won 28 straight games in which Crosby and Malkin both scored. … The Senators scratched C Marc Methot. … Pittsburgh scratched forward Tom Kuhnhackl, C Jake Guentzel and D Steve Olesky. … Fleury’s early exit marked the third time in 17 starts he failed to complete the game. He was pulled early only once in 58 starts last season.

UP NEXT

Senators: Travel to San Jose on Wednesday, the start of a three-game set in California that includes visits to Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Penguins: Begin a two-game road swing through Florida on Thursday when they face the Panthers.


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