Crosby’s 4 points lead streaking Penguins past Blues 6-1

Pittsburgh Penguins' Olli Maatta (3), of Finland, skates around St. Louis Blues' Robert Thomas (18) during the period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in St. Louis. (AP)

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Matt Murray returned to the lineup Dec. 15, rejuvenated after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury.

What a spark he’s provided for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Murray made 30 saves and Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists to lead the surging Penguins past the St. Louis Blues 6-1 on Saturday night.

“I’m just trying to get better as I go here,” Murray said. “I think everything is going in the right direction and I just need to stay focused on what’s important.”

Juuso Riikola, Zach Aston-Reese, Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin also scored for the Penguins, who converted on all four power plays. Pittsburgh has won a season-best five consecutive games.

Murray improved his record to 9-5-1. He has won five straight starts since coming back.

“I think that he’s making key saves and ones you don’t always expect him to make, ones that look like they’re maybe really good chances,” Crosby said. “Those are a big boost for a team and he’s had to do it a number of times through this stretch and a lot tonight.”

Jake Allen allowed four goals on 17 shots before getting pulled for Jordan Binnington almost halfway through the game. Allen fell to 13-11-4 and has been replaced in five of his 29 starts.

Alexander Steen was penalized for high-sticking Bryan Rust nine seconds into the game. Crosby capitalized when he one-timed a pass from Patrik Hornqvist past Allen for his team-leading 17th goal 39 seconds into the ensuing power play.

“We get an early power play and get a lead,” Crosby said. “It’s great that we scored. You at least want to carry some momentum from it.”

Crosby has nine points (one goal, eight assists) over his last three games.

Riikola fired a shot from the point past Allen with the Penguins on another power play 5:13 into the second period for his first NHL goal.

“It was awesome,” Aston-Reese said. “He’s a guy who had a ton of chances, a lot of posts he hit. I think everybody’s happy.”

Aston-Reese then netted his fifth of the season 2:04 later, and Letang followed with his ninth to end Allen’s night.

David Perron scored his 13th with 5:24 remaining in the second to break up the shutout bid.

“They exposed us in different areas,” Perron said. “I don’t think we lacked energy, I think they were just making better plays than we were tonight. You tip your cap, but at the same time it doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t want another crack at them tomorrow and see if the result would be different.”

St. Louis entered on a two-game winning streak but has not won three in a row since taking six straight in March last season.

“I thought we were ready to play,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. “We can’t take the penalties we took tonight. First shift, penalty and they score. I thought our game was pretty good, though.”

Guentzel and Malkin scored against Binnington 33 seconds apart in the third period.

NOTES: St. Louis played its 4,000th game in franchise history, making it the 10th NHL team to reach that milestone. … Blues D Alex Pietrangelo returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with a broken wrist. … Pittsburgh has not given up a power-play goal in 14 opportunities during its winning streak. . Rust exited 17:44 into the first period with a lower-body injury.


Penguins: Visit the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

St. Louis: Host the New York Rangers on Monday.