Thursday, December 2, 2010

Crosby scores 3 again, Pens beat Thrashers 3-2

PITTSBURGH -Sidney Crosby scored all three Pittsburgh goals for the first natural hat trick of his six-season career and the Penguins won a matchup of teams on long winning streaks, beating the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Thursday night.

With Crosby becoming the first Penguins player in nearly 10 years to score three goals in successive home games, Pittsburgh ran its winning streak to eight games. Atlanta's franchise record-tying six-game streak ended.

The Penguins, 10-0-1 in their last 11, are on their longest winning streak since they also won eight in a row from Dec. 23, 2007-Jan. 10, 2008. They have won their last eight at home against Atlanta, which had outscored opponents 22-5 during its winning streak.

Marc-Andre Fleury allowed Nik Antropov's goal that made it 3-2 late in the second period, but made 20 saves while improving to 9-0-1 in his last 10 starts.

It took the NHL's hottest scorer to beat one of the league's hottest teams. Crosby has scored six goals in his last two home games — he had three Saturday against Calgary — and has 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 14 games.

Crosby, the league's leading scorer with 21 goals and 23 assists for 44 points in 27 games, tied Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos for the goal-scoring lead. They tied for the goals title last season with 51 apiece.

Crosby did not score three consecutive goals during any of his six previous hat tricks, but he did so against Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who had an 0.83 goals-against average during Atlanta's winning streak.

Bryan Little scored off a rebound 6:21 into the game, the first goal allowed by Pittsburgh's league-leading penalty-killing unit in its opponents' last 33 power plays. Pittsburgh had gone nine games without giving up a man-advantage goal.

Crosby needed only 1 minute, 11 seconds to tie it, settling down a bouncing pass from Chris Kunitz at the side of the net and beating Pavelec.

Crosby reached the 20-goal mark early in the second period, surprising teammate Arron Asham as Asham gathered the puck deep in his own zone and saw Crosby 50 feet behind any defender at the far blue line. Crosby broke in on Pavelec one-on-one and beaten him cleanly with a backhander.

Crosby completed his hat trick at 10:18 of the second, deftly deflecting Brooks Orpik's slap shot from the blue line. No Penguins player had scored hat tricks in successive home games since Alex Kovalev on Feb. 7 & 10, 2001.

There was an audible stir after that any time Crosby had the puck on his stick near the net, but he couldn't score again. Crosby has never had an NHL four-goal game.

Pavelec has been nearly unbeatable in net for two weeks, giving up five goals in six games while stopping 183 of 188 shots, but he is 0-6 against Pittsburgh while allowing an average of nearly five goals per game.

NOTES: Pittsburgh has a hat trick in both games against the Thrashers this season. Evgeni Malkin scored three goals Nov. 13 in Atlanta. ... Atlanta has scored the first goal in 11 of its last 13 games. ... The Penguins are 6-1 against Southeast Division teams. 

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