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Malkin and Crosby each score twice as Penguins rally past Devils 6-3

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have combined for countless comebacks through 18 seasons together with the Pittsburgh Penguins and their third-period effort against New Jersey on Tuesday night surely ranked among their best.

Crosby and Malkin each scored twice in Pittsburgh's five-goal third and the Penguins kept their playoff hopes alive with a 6-3 win over the Devils.

The Penguins beat the Rangers 5-2 on Monday night and the back-to-back wins have moved them three points behind Washington for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with seven games left.

“I think we feel like we’ve done some good things, we’re working hard, everybody’s contributing," Crosby said. “Especially at a big time of year like this, that’s what you need.”

The Devils led 3-1 after two periods on goals by Timo Meier, Curtis Lazar and Jesper Bratt. Crosby and Malkin then scored 67 seconds apart early in the third to tie the score.

“It was a gutsy effort,'' Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”We hung in there. We dug in. I give our guys a lot of credit."

Rickard Rakell put Pittsburgh ahead with 3:44 to play before Malkin scored again 21 seconds later, his 23rd goal this season. Crosby made it 6-3 with his team-leading 39th goal at 17:07, an unassisted empty netter.

”We played with emotion and got rewarded," Rakell said.

Erik Karlsson opened the scoring for Pittsburgh at 7:54 of the first before Meier knotted the contest on the power play with 16.6 seconds left in the first, rifling his 25th goal past Alex Nedeljkovic, who had 23 saves.

“He battles,'' Sullivan said of Nedeljkovic, who is 14-6-6 in his first season with the Penguins and also was in net Monday. ”He competes and wills himself to make saves.″

Lazar’s goal at 9:42 of second put New Jersey ahead before Bratt extended the lead with his 25th goal on a breakaway at 17:47 of the middle period.

Crosby scored on the power play at 6:48 of the third before Malkin scored at 7:55 to tie the game at 3. Rookie defenseman Jack St. Ivany assisted on Malkin's tying goal, his first NHL point. The Penguins scored three more times to shock the Devils.

“Geno comes up with a huge tip, then Raks and Geno again,'' Crosby said of the rapid-fire sequence of late goals. ”We did a great job. We earned that one."

Jake Allen had 15 saves for New Jersey, now six points behind the Capitals and seven points behind the third-place Philadelphia Flyers in the Metropolitan Division.

“Once they made it 3-3, we made some mistakes and you can't make mistakes this time of year," Devils interim head coach Travis Green said. ”It's unfortunate with how well we played in the first two periods."

Crosby leads the Penguins with 84 points and his 1,586 career points are the most among active players. The 36-year-old center is four points behind Phil Esposito for 10th place on the career list.

The 37-year-old Malkin has 494 career goals and 1,287 points. He has scored 20 or more goals in 15 of his 18 seasons with the Penguins.

The Penguins are 386-87-46 when Crosby and Malkin record a point in the same game. And in 85 career games against New Jersey, Crosby has 41 goals and 92 points overall.

Pittsburgh is trying to avoid a second straight season without making the playoffs for the first time in Crosby’s career, which began in 2005-06. Malkin joined the Penguins the following season and the long-time teammates won the Stanley Cup together in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

The late collapse was another disappointment in a frustrating year for New Jersey a season after they finished with 112 points and ousted the Rangers in the first round of the playoffs,

“The other team had momentum and found their game,'' Green added. ”It's disheartening."

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

Allan Kreda, The Associated Press