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Crosby's 250th NHL goal lifts Penguins past Islanders

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby's 250th career goal was a game-winner.

Crosby scored with 1:16 remaining in regulation to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory against the New York Islanders on Friday night at Consol Energy Center.

Chris Kunitz chased his own dump-in, outbattled Radek Martinek and pushed it to Pascal Dupuis, who sent a pass out to Crosby at the left of Kevin Poulin's crease. Crosby, who leads the League with 30 points, was left alone when two Islanders went to Dupuis and snapped home the milestone goal to put the Penguins ahead to stay.

"It just kind of got put together there," said Crosby, who has 250 goals and 695 points in 493 regular-season games. "It was a good forecheck. [Kunitz] got a hit to separate the guy from the puck and then [Dupuis] found me there at the side of the net. It was kind of a patient third period for both teams. There wasn't much going on from the first two periods, but it's nice to get the win."

After losing four of five games, Pittsburgh has won three consecutive games to stretch its lead atop the Metropolitan Division to five points over the Washington Capitals, which lost 3-2 at home to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday. The Penguins visit Montreal on Saturday.

Pittsburgh rookie Jeff Zatkoff stopped 30 shots for his second career victory. Poulin made 30 saves.

New York has gone has lost nine of 13 games since its 4-3 win against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Oct. 25. The Islanders finish a three-game road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

"Am I happy? No," Poulin said. "I don't think you can ever be happy when you don't win, but tomorrow's another game. We had success the last couple of times we came in here, and we knew what we needed to do to get back in the game."

Evgeni Malkin ended his 15-game goal drought when he extended the Penguins' lead to 3-1 at 6:25 of the second period. James Neal slid the puck into a crowded crease where Malkin buried his fourth goal of the season and first since Oct. 17 at 6:25 of the second period to put Pittsburgh by two.

Malkin is second on the Penguins with 24 points, six behind Crosby; he earned 14 assists during the drought.

"He had a breakaway and I wasn't ready," Malkin said of Neal. "At the last second, I shot the puck and it surprised me. Thanks to him for sure. My line did a great job tonight and I had a breakaway in the last five minutes and didn't score, but I'm just excited for the next game."

Thomas Vanek, in his first action since missing five games with an upper body injury, helped erase a pair of two-goal deficits by scoring two of the Islanders' three second-period goals.

Prior to Malkin's goal, Kyle Okposo dug the puck out of the corner and backhanded a pass to Vanek between the circles. Vanek wristed a shot past Zatkoff at 1:46 to cut Pittsburgh's lead to 2-1.

After Malkin put the Penguins back in front by two, Colin McDonald snapped a shot past Zatkoff's blocker at 11:33, finishing off a 2-on-1 break. Vanek tied it when he whacked home a loose puck after a turnover by Penguins defenseman Paul Martin 1:21 later. Vanek sent a pass through Pittsburgh's crease to John Tavares, who tapped the puck on goal. The puck bounced off Okposo, and Vanek backhanded a shot into the net before Craig Adams or Brooks Orpik could clear it.

The Islanders matched the Penguins at 5-on-5 until the coverage mistake that allowed Crosby's goal, but they were beaten badly on special teams. The power play was 0-for-6 and the penalty-killers allowed two goals in four tries.

"It's our job to prepare them to work," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said of he and his staff. "I always judge teams by their work ethic, and our team's tonight was there. We outshot them, we outhit them, we had blocked shots. Our goalie played well enough to give us a chance.

"Special teams [stunk] and we made a mental error on the last goal."

The Islanders' penalty-killing unit, ranked last in the NHL at 70.4 percent, allowed the Penguins to take a 2-0 lead after one period on back-to-back power-play goals by Kunitz.

Malkin fed the puck from the left boards through three Islanders to Crosby, who slid a pass back across the zone and into the crease to set up Kunitz's first goal 4:04 into the game. He scored again 3:51 later when Crosby charged the net during a 3-on-2 and created an open passing lane for Neal to find Kunitz, who slapped a one-timer past Poulin for his 11th of the season.

"The first 30 minutes of the game, they [the Islanders] are going to have the better opportunities 5-on-5," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Our power play got the two power-play goals, but they came out clearly and a lot of pucks went to the net. They probably carried the play there."

Hats cascaded from the stands when Kunitz put a third shot past Poulin with 1:10 remaining in the first. But Malkin was called for high sticking and the goal was disallowed.

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