PITTSBURGH (AP) — Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang didn’t even see the puck go in. He just heard the roar of the crowd.
That was all he needed on a night when his team was in dreadful shape earlier in the third period.
Letang capped a wild comeback, scoring the deciding goal with 3:06 to play, and Pittsburgh rallied with six goals in the third to beat the Vancouver Canucks, 8-6, on Wednesday night.
It was the first time Pittsburgh scored six third period goals since Dec. 26, 1991.
Letang’s slap shot from the right circle beat Thatcher Demko to the glove side, completing Pittsburgh’s comeback from a 6-3 deficit.
“I was shooting next to a guy, so I couldn’t see behind him,” Letang said. “I just kind of reacted with the crowd.”
Evgeni Malkin scored twice and had three assists, and Jake Guentzel had two goals and two assists. Guentzel, on a three-game scoring streak, has 14 goals this season and six goals and 11 points on a six-game point streak.
Malkin tied a single-game career high, scoring five points for the first time since March 20, 2012, against Winnipeg. He has four goals and 13 points in eight games without Sidney Crosby, who is recovering from core muscle surgery.
“Confidence is huge right now,” Malkin said. “We have a couple bad injuries now and I understand it’s my time. I’m just enjoying every day. I’m trying to do my best.”
Bryan Rust also tied a single-game career high with a power-play goal and three assists, while Dominik Kahun and Zach Aston-Reese also scored for Pittsburgh, which extended its point streak to seven games. The Penguins have points in 12 of their last 14 games.
Tristan Jarry stopped six shots in relief of Matt Murray, who started and made 10 saves in two periods.
“We love the resilience that this group shows,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “It’s just a never-say-die attitude regardless of the score or challenge in front of us.”
Elias Pettersson scored his 11th of the season and his fifth goal in eight games for Vancouver. He has seven goals and 25 points in his last 19 games. J.T Miller and Adam Gaudette each had two goals and Jake Virtanen scored his seventh for the Canucks, who have three wins in their last 12 games. Demko made 32 saves.
“It’s unfortunate,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “This could’ve been one of our best wins of the year and it turns into a loss that hurts. That really stings.”
The Canucks trailed 2-0 through the first 15 minutes but scored four goals on 14 shots to jump ahead 4-2 after two periods. Pittsburgh trailed 6-3 in the third period but rallied with three goals in 4:14 to tie the game.
Miller scored a power-play goal and Gaudette got his second of the game 35 seconds later to give Vancouver a 6-3 lead. Miller, on a four-game point streak, has eight goals and 18 points in his last 18 games.
But Kahun responded with his seventh of the season and Malkin brought Pittsburgh within one with a power-play goal. Aston-Reese tied the game at 10:30 of the third period.
Pittsburgh jumped on Vancouver with an early 12-0 advantage in shots and the first two goals. The Canucks were held without a shot for the first 13:50.
Guentzel opened the scoring for Pittsburgh at 2:29 of the first period. He has goals in seven of his last eight home games, which includes a career-best six-game home goal-scoring streak. Rust made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 12:53 of the first.
The Canucks scored the next four goals, including three in the second period.
Pettersson tied the game for Vancouver at 7:17 of the second, and Virtanen and Gaudette scored goals 41 seconds apart in the final two minutes of the period, but the Canucks couldn’t hold the lead.
“We were kind of dominating the play most of the night,” Letang said. “Guys kept playing hard and knew we had a chance to come back.”
The Penguins visit Columbus today.
NOTES: Guentzel has at least one point in seven career games against the Canucks for eight goals and 13 points. He has points in 12 of 15 home games this season. ... Malkin has five goals and 18 points in his last 11 games. ... Penguins D John Marino continued a career-best six-game point streak. ... Vancouver D Quinn Hughes is second in NHL rookie scoring after finishing with three assists. ... Green announced Jacob Markstrom as the starting goalie Wednesday morning, but Markstrom ended up sitting with an illness. ... Brandon Sutter (groin) missed his seventh game for the Canucks, while Jay Beagle (lower body) sat out his third straight.Vancouver 1 3 2 — 6Pittsburgh 2 0 6 — 8