Sidney Crosby is disproving the theory that the NHL would never again see a time when offense ruled and top goal scorers routinely averaged a goal a game.
Crosby scored twice during his fourth multiple-goal game in his last six, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their 11th game in a row by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 on Wednesday night.
The Penguins, 12-0-1 since last losing in regulation on Nov. 10, are on the second-longest winning streak in franchise history. Their only longer run was their NHL-record 17-game streak during a 119-point season in 1993.
That's back when Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux regularly scored goals in bunches. During a much different era when goals don't come as easily and 100-point scorers are scarce, the 23-year-old Crosby leads the NHL with 26 goals and 50 points in 30 games
The former NHL MVP and scoring champion has 20 goals and 15 assists during a 17-game scoring streak that is two shy of his career best, and he has 14 goals during Pittsburgh's winning streak.
Crosby also has nine goals in the Penguins' last four home games. He also has at least one goal in 13 of 17 games, one reason some in the standing-room crowd 18,1568 began chanting, "M-V-P! M-V-P!"
There's more: Crosby has figured in 22 of the Penguins' 38 goals during a winning streak that began after they lost a 2-1 lead in the final minute of a 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers on Nov. 15.
"It's December, though, and there's a lot of season left," said Crosby, who also received a standing ovation. "As a group, we want to keep going and individually, (I) want to keep going. Just want to keep going."
Crosby nearly got his third hat trick in four home games, using an inside-out move to fool goalie Jonas Gustavsson in the opening 30 seconds of the third period. But the puck trickled off his stick inches shy of the goal line.
Earlier, Crosby opened the scoring at 8:35 of the first, missing on his initial attempt to put Chris Kunitz's rebound past Gustavsson before going to his backhand to score a moment later.
"I wish we had more guys to cover him," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said.
Kunitz had three assists for Pittsburgh, and Mark Letestu scored twice after going 22 games without a goal as Pittsburgh opened a 4-0 lead.
"We still have a long way to go to get to where we think we can be," coach Dan Bylsma said. "I think with the mindset that we have, the players we have, we go over the boards every game thinking we can dictate the game and the pace."
The frustrated Maple Leafs gave up three goals in slightly more than 5 minutes of the second period, amid a series of four fights that finally provided the motivational lift Wilson probably hoped they would. Only it was too late.
Pascal Dupuis finished off an uncontested short-handed break with Kunitz at 11:38 of the second, and Letestu scored less than 2 minutes later after not scoring since Oct. 18.
Crosby also scored on a 2-on-1 break with Kunitz at 14:46. His league-leading 26th goal gave him a league-high 50 points in 30 games.
"They're a well-oiled machine right now," Toronto forward Colby Armstrong said. "They're playing good hockey, they're making simple plays. We were a step behind and they're going to burn us. It's too hard to come back against a team like that."
Asked if the short-handed goal altered the game, Wilson said, "The turning point of the game was when they dropped the opening faceoff."
Toronto got goals from Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski in just over 4 minutes of the third, during a stretch in which it outshot Pittsburgh 15-1. Grabovski's goal came with Crosby among three players off the ice serving penalties following a fight between Pittsburgh's Eric Godard and Toronto's Jay Rosehill.
"Maybe we got caught watching the clock tick down," Crosby said.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury shut down Toronto the rest of the way, making 23 saves during his 10th consecutive victory. Fleury is 12-0-1 in his last 13 games.
"Right now, we're confident no matter what the score is," Fleury said.
NOTES: Crosby has nine goals in his last six against Toronto. ... Toronto D Dion Phaneuf (left leg laceration) might return Thursday. He has been out since Nov. 2. ... Pittsburgh leads the NHL with 42 points despite starting 7-8-1. ... Penguins F Evgeni Malkin (knee) sat out a third consecutive game. ... Toronto has lost nine of its last 10 road games. ... The Penguins won their seventh consecutive home game.