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Crosby scores as Penguins top Flames 3-1

by Todd Kimberley
CALGARY -- The march of the Penguins appears to be back on track.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who began a four-game trek through the Northwest Division with a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday, rebounded with a 3-1 victory over the host Calgary Flames on Wednesday night at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

And they did it against a hard-hitting, hard-skating Flames squad that peppered Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with 38 shots on goal.

"You either get eaten in this one, or you have to man up," said Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, whose club had lost eight of its previous 11. "They're a team of putting pucks in and coming real hard. The 'D' have to go back under some pretty tough conditions to get pucks. In the third period, you saw Mark Eaton go back for a puck, and take a hit to make a play. You saw Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang go back for pucks, and take a hit to make a play.

"That's their M.O. Our guys did a real good job, and it was a big factor in being able to keep them from getting to our goalie too much."

Sidney Crosby scored his 30th goal of the season with the game less than four minutes old. Bill Guerin broke a 1-1 tie midway through the second as the Pens' much-maligned power play chalked up the eventual game-winner.

And Tyler Kennedy put the game away with a backhander from the slot past Miikka Kiprusoff at the 18:20 mark of the third, after teammate Jordan Staal had stripped Daymond Langkow of the puck.

The Pens (29-18-1), who've won 15 of 25 on the road this season, sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division, six points back of the New Jersey Devils. Calgary (25-16-6) has won just once in its last five, after a season-high, five-game winning streak from Dec. 28 to Jan. 5.

The Pens have won three straight games against the Flames, and will attempt to make another Western Canadian sweep with games on Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers and Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.

Back in December 2007, during Sidney Crosby's first NHL voyage through Western Canada, the defending champs reeled off three in a row.

Fleury was on his game Wednesday night, as the Flames battled hard in the final 20 minutes with 16 shots on net. The 25-year-old goalie, who's been named to Team Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, denied Nigel Dawes the five-hole early in the third, after Dawes stepped out of the penalty box for a clear-cut breakaway.

He also shut down Jamie Lundmark, who was left unchecked in the slot, falling to his knees and making a pad save.

"I felt good. That was a fun night," said Fleury. "They threw a lot of pucks on the net. They came in for rebounds. It was intense. It was a high-tempo game."

Crosby, who has a four-game goal streak, and six goals in that span, praised his goaltender for weathering the storm.

"He's always really strong for us, but tonight I think he stepped up even more," the Pens' captain said. "He made great saves throughout the night. It was nice to get rewarded for really working hard. Our penalty kill did a really good job, ‘Flower’ did a really good job, and we really had to stick with that one all the way through."

The Flames remain tied with Colorado (26-15-6) for top spot in the Northwest Division, and continue to struggle at home this season, falling to 12-9-3 at the Saddledome.

Defenseman Mark Giordano scored Calgary's lone goal, ending an 0-for-16 power-play drought that had stretched back for five-plus games with a high wrister from the left circle at 9:39 of the second that tied the game 1-1.

Just 73 seconds later, though, Guerin would restore the Pens' lead for good.

"We had a lot of chances. A lot of nights, those are going in," said Flames forward Dustin Boyd. "We had a ton of opportunities ... I guess 'snakebitten' might be the word. It's tough when you miss those opportunities, because you never know how many more you're going to get. When you get a chance, you've got to bury it."

Brent Sutter's crew has now taken 124 shots on net over the past three games, but collected just three points in that span.

"Their goalie did play well tonight, but we had 18 or 19 quality scoring chances here tonight and we were only able to capitalize on one of them," said the Flames' coach.

"We're doing the right things to create the opportunities, but we're not getting the job done when it's there for us. With one goal a night, it's tough to win games."

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