GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins lost a defenseman in warmups, gave up a short-handed goal less than 2 minutes in and failed to register a shot for 13 minutes.
All they needed was one of the most bizarre goals you’ll see to spark a comeback.
Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith inadvertently banked a clearance pass off Brandon Sutter’s backside and into his own net, helping the Penguins recover for a 3-1 victory Saturday night that snapped a four-game losing streak.
“I turned because I didn’t want to take it in the face and it hit me right in the rear end,” Sutter said. “I’ve never had one of those before. That’s patience around the net right there. That’s my touch around the net.”
Daniel Winnik’s redirect over Smith’s head and under the crossbar 4 minutes later in the second period put the Penguins ahead.
Sidney Crosby’ 23rd goal into an empty net with 12 seconds left sealed it. He also earned his 50th assist on Winnik’s goal, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots.
But the backside goal stole the spotlight.
“We finally got a bounce,” Crosby said.
It spoiled what was an otherwise good night for Smith in his forgettable season.
Smith stopped 34 shots in his 36th loss. He’s the first goaltender to lose that many in a season since Marc Denis for Columbus in 2003-04.
Tobias Rieder’s short-handed goal 1:34 in was the lone offense for the Coyotes, who have lost 17 of 18.
The Penguins were again without injured forwards Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, who have combined for 51 goals. Then, Christian Ehrhoff aggravated an undisclosed injury in warmups, leaving the Penguins with five defensemen.
“It’s not a major injury, but it was something that was nagging him,” coach Mike Johnston said.
Outscored 11-2 in their longest regulation losing streak in three seasons, Johnston changed things up. Friday’s practice was canceled and there was no morning skate.
It didn’t work, despite a power play 38 seconds in when Michael Stone held Crosby.
David Moss took a bouncing puck from Crosby and fed Rieder, who beat Fleury from the left point at 1:34. It marked the fifth straight game Pittsburgh trailed 1-0.
It didn’t get any better in the first period. The Penguins’ first shot came when Smith turned away Crosby with 6:48 left. The shot-less drought included four minutes with the man advantage and two more with a 4-on-4.
“We didn’t have our legs,” Crosby said.
The Penguins came out with much more energy in the second period, peppering Smith with 21 shots. But it took Smith’s miscue to get on the board.
“My thought process was to ice the puck, but probably a wrong time of the game,” Smith said. “Bad decision making and it cost us a goal.”
While on the penalty kill, Smith went behind his net to collect Ian Cole’s dump in and attempted to clear the puck up the middle. But soon, it was trickling off Cole’s backside over the goal line.
“I was trying to finagle an assist out of that,” Cole said, smiling.
Smith never saw Winnik’s redirect of Kris Letang’s shot, which slipped under the crossbar. Smith fell to 11-36-5 a day before his 33rd birthday.
The Coyotes’ last regulation home win was Jan. 8.
“We want to win really bad,” Rieder said. “It’s obviously more frustrating at home when you’re always in tight games and can’t manage to get points.”
NOTES: Crosby drew three penalties. … It was Winnik’s first goal since being traded by Toronto in February. … The Coyotes have 22 goals in their 1-16-1 stretch. … Coyotes RW Martin Erat, injured Thursday, didn’t play, but could return for Sunday’s game against Vancouver. … The teams meet again next Saturday in Pittsburgh.
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