The Pittsburgh Penguins were one of the NHL’s most disappointing teams when they traveled to California last week.
They’re returning home as one of its hottest.
They completed a sweep of their three-game swing through California — something they’d done only once before, during the 1996-97 season — with a 4-3 overtime victory against Los Angeles at Crypto.com Arena Thursday night.
And they did it in spectacular fashion, as Bryan Rust scored the game-winner on a wraparound at 3:45 of the extra period, just 19 seconds after his apparent goal at 3:26 was waved off when the play was determined to be offside.
That gave the Penguins their first three-game winning streak of the season and bumped their record to 6-6. It was their first win in Los Angeles since Jan. 18, 2018.
Magnus Hellberg made his first start for the Penguins since joining them as a free agent during the offseason. He was the No. 3 goaltender on their depth chart a few weeks ago, but has ascended to the top because of injuries to Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic.
Hellberg acquitted himself well, turning aside 33 of the Kings’ 36 shots.
Sidney Crosby didn’t need much time to stretch his scoring streak to seven games, as he staked the Penguins to a 1-0 lead at 7:11 of the opening period.
He carried the puck around the net and beat Kings goalie Pheonix Copley to the left post before tucking in a shot for his seventh of the season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins opened the scoring in every game during this trip.
The teams combined for 16 hits during the first 20 minutes, none bigger than the one Los Angeles defenseman Andreas Englund delivered on Radim Zohorna to fell him in the middle of the period.
The Penguins had an opportunity to pad their lead when they got the first power play of the game at 12:14, but could not convert and gave up a goal as the man-advantage was expiring.
Carl Grundstrom scored it when he was left alone in front of Hellberg and got a pass from Anze Kopitar, who was along the right-wing boards.
Los Angeles controlled play coming out of the intermission, running up the first eight shots of the second period.
The Kings, who scored at least one man-advantage goal in each of the previous four games, got the first of their two power plays during that period when Zohorna was sent off for hooking at 4:51, but could generate only one shot on Hellberg.
However, Adrian Kempe, who had four goals in the Kings’ 6-0 victory against the Penguins at Crypto.com last season, put Los Angeles in front by beating Hellberg with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle at 9:58.
The Kings had an opportunity to tighten their grip on the game when Kris Letang was penalized for hooking at 17:20, but it was the Penguins who scored while Letang was in the box.
Lars Eller tied the game at 18:03 on a superb individual effort. He stole the puck at center ice, then carried it down the right side before cutting across the ice and throwing a shot past Copley as he approached the left hash for his second of the season.
Eller’s goal, like Crosby’s, was unassisted.
The one Jake Guentzel scored 37 seconds into the third period most certainly was not.
Guentzel charged down the left side of the slot and steered in a pass from Crosby, who had the puck at the right point, for his fifth of the season and a 3-2 lead. Erik Karlsson got the second assist.
Crosby’s assist made him the 11th player in NHL history to record 450 multiple-point games.
The Penguins were shorthanded for the third time when Crosby was penalized for tripping at 2:37, but the penalty-killers came through again to preserve their advantage.
Still, Los Angeles tied the game again at 6:40, as Kevin Fiala backhanded in a rebound to make it 3-3 and complete the scoring in regulation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to fly home Friday and will face Buffalo Saturday at 7:38 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.