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Crosby, Penguins beat Islanders 3-2

by John Kreiser
Pittsburgh's Geroges Laraque celebrates his first goal as a Penguin with teammate Mark Eaton.
Sidney Crosby is so dangerous that anyone he plays with is a threat to score — even someone who hadn’t gotten a goal in 40 games.

With his team mired in a four-game losing streak, Crosby set up Georges Laraque’s tie-breaking goal with 3:15 left in the second period ( 700K ) to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Laraque hadn’t scored since joining the Penguins at the trading deadline last Feb. 27. But with the score tied 2-2, he was in the right place at the right time to fire Crosby’s pass behind Rick DiPietro after the Pittsburgh captain took the puck away from Isles defenseman Brendan Witt in the left corner.

“I always go to the net, just to try creating space down low,” Laraque said. “But with Sid, a great passer like that, anyone goes to the net.”

Laraque got the goal, but it was Crosby who did the work, taking the puck from Witt and spinning away to create a passing lane.

“That’s why he is who he is,” Islanders defenseman Bryan Berard said of Crosby, who extended his scoring streak to 18 games, the longest in the NHL this season. “He makes plays like that.”

The Islanders pressed for the tying goal in the third period, outshooting the Penguins 10-5, but were unable to beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who hadn’t won in five starts since shutting out the New York Rangers on Oct. 23. That was also the last time the Penguins had won at Mellon Arena.

Marc-Andre Fleury was great tonight,” said Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien, who had been giving backup Dany Sabourin more playing time as Fleury struggled. “He was calm. I liked the way he competed. We’ve always believed in Marc-Andre.”

Fleury was relieved to end both his slide and his team’s.

“''I was a little nervous at the beginning,'' Fleury said. ''I hadn't been playing in Pittsburgh for a while, so I was a little excited. But things went well, the guys got some goals, we got the lead, so that worked to relax me. It has been a little tough lately. It’s been a while since I got a win, so I am happy everything went well.”

Evgeni Malkin set up Sergei Gonchar’s goal at 18:22 of the first period ( 700K ) and Petr Sykora’s power-play tally 58 seconds into the second period ( 700K ) to extend his scoring streak to 12 games. Crosby and Malkin have combined for 38 points in that span.

“We want to contribute and it’s always nice to win, so if you can do that and win, it’s great,” Crosby said. “But for us, we have a job to produce. We try to do it as consistently as possible. We're getting breaks, too. We're getting some bounces, and all you can do is hope they keep coming. It's nice to snap (the losing streak). It's never a good feeling to lose.”

Malkin has five goals and 14 assists during his streak; Crosby has 10 goals and 18 assists during his.

Though they have two of the NHL’s top offensive players, the Penguins have struggled to score goals. They have scored three or more goals only twice in eight games this month — and have won both contests.

“We want to win games, but we want to win them the right way, too,” Crosby said. “We gave ourselves a chance, and guys stepped up and made big plays — and our goaltender was great."

Mike Comrie gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead when he deflected Witt’s shot past Fleury 14:17 into the game ( 700K ), and Josef Vasicek tied the game at 2-2 with a backhander past Fleury 8:51 into the second ( 700K ).

“We made some mistakes, I don’t think that was our best effort, but we played well,” said DiPietro. “'I thought we had some good chances; they capitalized one more time than we did and got the win.”

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

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