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Staal powers Pens past Lightning

Thursday, 01.10.2008 / 11:51 PM / Game of the Night

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

Jordan Staal had two goals and an assist in the Pens' 4-1 win over the Lightning. 
Watch Staal in action 700K | 700K
Sidney Crosby finally found the key to beating Tampa Bay — let someone else do the scoring.

Crosby had never beaten the Lightning since joining the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005. The Pens were 0-5-3 against the Bolts in his first two NHL seasons, even though he had three goals and nine points in the eight games.

The NHL’s reigning scoring champ didn’t have a point on Thursday night, but it didn’t matter. The Penguins got two goals in a 2:22 span of the second period from Jordan Staal and rolled to a 4-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Breaking the victory drought against Tampa meant more to Crosby than the end of his nine-game scoring streak.

''I think all teams have pride, and whether it was guys who where here for it or weren't here for it, you don't want to have to talk about it every time either,'' Crosby said. ''We want to be considered a good team at home and on the road. We don't want to be known for having bad games.''

It was the Penguins' eighth straight win — their longest streak since a 10-game stretch in January and February 1999. Pittsburgh also stopped a 12-game losing skid against Tampa Bay. The Pens hadn’t beaten the Lightning since Jan. 17, 2003, and had been 9-16-2 at Tampa Bay.

The game had been billed as a meeting between Crosby, the NHL’s reigning scoring champ, and current scoring leader Vincent Lecavalier. But the Penguins held Lecavalier without a point. Part of that was due to the play of goalie Ty Conklin, who made 35 saves to win his ninth game without a loss since being recalled from the minors when Marc-Andre Fleury was injured.

''We both had some opportunities and didn't bury them,'' said Lecavalier, who had six shots on goal, two more than Crosby.

Staal came into the night with only three goals this season after getting 29 as a rookie in 2006-07. But after Paul Ranger put the Lightning in front at 4:11 of the second period ( 700K ), Staal's two second-period goals gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead. He redirected Petr Sykora's shot into the net for a power-play goal to tie it at 12:11 ( 700K ), then made it 2-1 when he beat Karri Ramo from in close at 14:33 after Sykora sent the puck off the side of the net from the corner along the goal line ( 700K ).

''We had a great first and the second period was flat ... I don't know why,'' Lightning defenseman Shane O'Brien said.

Staal also assisted on Ryan Malone’s goal with 2:39 left in the game ( 700K ). Evgeni Malkin hit the empty net with 12 seconds left to complete the scoring ( 700K ).

Conklin has been in goal for all eight games during the winning streak, allowing only 10 goals. He stopped 13 shots in the scoreless first period, including a diving save on Lecavalier's shot from the lower right circle.

''He's playing outstanding for us,'' Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said of Conklin. ''That's a big surprise. He got a chance, he got an opportunity to be back in the NHL and he's certainly trying to take full advantage of it.''

Tampa Bay had six shots during a four-minute power play early in the third. Conklin stopped Martin St. Louis' backhander, and got a break when Filip Kuba’s blast from the left circle hit the post.

''It's frustrating,'' Kuba said. ''It's how it's going right now for us.''

Meanwhile, the Penguins’ confidence is growing by the day.

“The whole room is confident, not one or two guys,” Conklin said. “Winning games breeds that in the whole team. It also breeds trust; everybody trusts each other to do the right thing and make the right play.”

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.

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