PITTSBURGH — The San Jose Sharks' six-game winning streak came to a screeching halt Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Penguins scored four quick goals early in the second period and coasted to a 5-1 win.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby assisted on three of those goals but failed to score his first against the Sharks in five meetings.
The game was billed as both a showdown of division leaders and a battle of East vs. West. And it looked as if San Jose might catch a break when it learned the Penguins' other star center, Evgeni Malkin, would unexpectedly miss the game with a lower body injury.
Instead, the Penguins got two goals from Chris Kunitz and one each from Pascal Dupuis, Jayson Megna and Kris Letang to hand San Jose only its fourth regulation defeat of the season. Tomas Hertl scored his team-leading 14th goal for the Sharks' lone score.
Unfortunately for the Sharks, coach Todd McLellan proved prophetic before the game when asked about Malkin's absence.
"One man does not make a team, and that is a team over there," McLellan said.
"They've been able to recover from injury losses in the past and, in fact, some nights they even play better. Their team pulls together."
Neither team found the back of the net in the first period, with the Penguins coming closest after John McCarthy took a hooking penalty and Pittsburgh defenseman rattled a shot off the post on the power play that followed.
But it took only 27 seconds into the second period before the Pittsburgh onslaught was under way.
It started with a drop pass by Crosby to defenseman Brooks Orpik, who fired a shot that was tipped into the San Jose net by Dupuis. Less than two minutes later, Pittsburgh capitalized on a neutral zone turnover by Jason Demers and Megna made it 2-0 with a shot that sailed over Niemi on the stick side.
At 5:27, Kunitz scored the first of his two goals off the rebound of a shot by Crosby with a backhand effort and on his next shift, Kunitz scored on a power play with John McCarthy in the penalty box to up the lead to 4-0 at 7:30.
The Sharks got one of those goals back at 9:27 when Hertl threw the puck to the crease where Burns was a big distraction and the shot ended Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid.
McLellan sent backup netminder Alex Stalock out for the third period, but he didn't fare any better on the first shot he faced as Letang scored to make it 5-1 at 3:30.
Pittsburgh's victory was its first in regulation over San Jose since Nov. 23, 2002.
The Sharks had gone 8-0-1 since then.
The two NHL goalies with the most wins since the start of the 2011-12 season started the game at opposite ends of the ice.
Fleury had 80 victories over that stretch and Niemi had 74 going into the game.
Third on the list was Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers with 71.
The game was forward Tyler Kennedy's first in Pittsburgh since being acquired by San Jose on June 30.
When his image appeared on the video board, the crowd at Consol Energy Center cheered and Kennedy acknowledged that with a wave.