PITTSBURGH - Phil Kessel scored twice and picked up an assist, Evgeni Malkin added two goals and two assists, and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins rolled past the Washington Capitals 7-4 on Friday night.
Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who won their fourth straight to pull within four points of first-place Washington in the crowded Metropolitan Division. Sidney Crosby had two assists to push his scoring streak to 11 games, the longest active streak in the NHL.
Matt Murray stopped 29 shots for Pittsburgh, which won its seventh consecutive home game by jumping on the Capitals early then pulling away late.
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Alex Ovechkin scored twice to push his season total to an NHL-best 32 and Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetzov also scored for the Capitals, but Washington couldn't keep pace with the Penguins. Braden Holtby finished with 27 saves but gave up three goals in the opening 8 minutes of the third period before being pulled in favor of Phillpp Grubauer as Pittsburgh broke open a tight game.
The Penguins came in rolling, ripping off an NHL-high nine wins in January to climb from 10th in the Eastern Conference to within striking distance of the division-leading Capitals with still two months to go before the postseason (see full recap).
Helm, Mrazek lead Red Wings to win over Hurricances
RALEIGH, N.C. - After two months of struggles, Darren Helm finally had the breakout game he's been seeking.
Helm had a goal and two assists, Petr Mrazek stopped 36 shots, and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Friday night.
Helm's goal was his first since Dec. 5, and he also had his first multi-assist game of the season.
"It feels great," Helm said. "I don't know if I played a whole lot better than I had in previous games, but it's definitely nice when the puck finally gets in the back of the net, either by myself or given to teammates."
Gustav Nyquist, Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley also scored for the Red Wings, who won their second straight after dropping six of eight (see full recap).
Sharks beat Blue Jackets with 2 power-play goals
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Kevin Labanc had a goal and an assist, and Martin Jones stopped 28 shots to lift the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night.
The Sharks' first two goals came on power plays, with Labanc getting a wide-open look at the net with a 5-on-3 advantage in the second period. Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for San Jose, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves for the Blue Jackets, who have lost two in a row and five of their last seven. Boone Jenner had the lone goal as Columbus continues to struggle offensively.
Couture scored 5:07 into the game with the Blue Jackets' Matt Calvert in the penalty box for tripping. Couture got his 22nd goal of the season when he snapped a shot from the high slot over the glove of Bobrovsky, who was shielded by 6-foot-5 defenseman Brent Burns.