LOS ANGELES (AP) - Just looking at the Pittsburgh Penguins' fast start, you might never know they have been without captain Sidney Crosby all season.
Chris Kunitz scored the tying goal with 2:57 left in regulation and netted the deciding tally in the fourth round of a shootout to lead the Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night.
Crosby, sidelined since Jan. 5 because of a concussion, is seemingly getting closer to returning, but has no date yet.
``We'll know when he lets us all know. But right now, I have no idea,' Kunitz said. ``You can't replace a guy like Sid. He obviously makes our team better when he's in the lineup. Right now everybody is pulling their own weight.'
The Penguins are 32-16-8 during Crosby's absence, not counting their first-round playoff loss to Tampa Bay last season.
``Our ability to be able to play with speed and be a hardworking, tenacious team has allowed us to play very hard defense and make us hard to handle,' Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Steve Sullivan scored his first of the season, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves for the Penguins (9-3-3), who lead the NHL with 21 points.
Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist, Simon Gagne also scored, and Justin Williams had two assists for the Kings, who have lost four straight. Jonathan Quick had 31 saves.
``The outcome wasn't the way we wanted it to be, but I think our game overall was much better than it was the last game,' Kopitar said.
Mike Richards was taken down from behind by defenseman Kris Letang and was awarded a penalty shot with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Richards missed wide, making him 0 for 6 on penalty shots.
The Kings pulled ahead 2-1 when Gagne scored with 6:11 left in regulation.
Kings captain Dustin Brown thought he had an insurance goal with 3:20 to go, but referee Kelly Sutherland waved it off because Brown hit the puck above the crossbar. Video replays upheld the decision.
The Penguins tied it with 2:57 remaining when Kunitz scored from the edge of the crease.
``The pace of the game picked up, the compete level got real heavy,' Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``Unfortunately, on the tying goal they got at the end, it was a strong play by them.'
Three minor penalties were called against the Kings during a 1:34 span late in the first period, leading to Sullivan's goal at 18:45.
Willie Mitchell and Ethan Moreau received staggered slashing penalties, giving Pittsburgh a 5-on-3 advantage for 30 seconds. The two-man power play was extended another 1:31 by a delay-of-game penalty against defenseman Rob Scuderi, which began when Mitchell left the box.
Letang shoveled the puck to Sullivan, who beat Quick from a sharp angle.
The Kings, who lost 3-0 in their two previous home games, tied it 1-1 at 13:34 of the second period with Kopitar's seventh goal. That ended Los Angeles' home scoring drought at 158 minutes, 31 seconds, dating to Jack Johnson's third-period goal in a 1-0 win over Dallas on Oct. 22.
``We had some big time chances,' Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. ``This team is good enough that it's going to come down to guys scoring goals.'
Los Angeles had a two-man advantage for 1:18 earlier in the period and recorded only one shot. Fleury has stopped all 38 shots he's faced while killing penalties, and Pittsburgh has allowed only three power-play goals in 44 chances.
``Our penalty-kill does a very good job in front of them, limiting opportunities and also giving him shots that he can work with,' Bylsma said. ``He doesn't give up a lot of rebounds, and when he knows where those shots are coming from, he's a big part of that penalty-kill.'
This win came exactly two years after the Penguins' previous visit to Staples Center, when the Kings won 5-2 with a four-goal third period against Fleury.
``It was a tight game from start to finish, but it was nice to finally get those two points at the end,' Fleury said.
NOTES: Penguins D Robert Bortuzzo, promoted from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL on Friday, made his NHL debut. He replaced Ben Lovejoy, who broke his left wrist Thursday during a 4-3 shootout loss at San Jose. ... Pittsburgh played short-handed more than twice for the first time in six games. ... The Kings have been held to three goals in four home games after beating St. Louis 5-0 on Oct. 18. ... Penguins C Jordan Staal returned to the lineup after missing two games with a leg injury.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved