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Crosby's five assists help Penguins past Sabres

by Joe Yerdon

BUFFALO -- Sidney Crosby always seems to score in bunches against the Buffalo Sabres. He continued to do that Saturday night.

Crosby had five assists to help the Pittsburgh Penguins extend their winning streak to seven games with a 6-1 win against the Sabres at First Niagara Center.

Crosby assisted on Pittsburgh's first five goals. He set up Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist on each of their goals, then got the primary assist on defenseman Robert Bortuzzo's first goal of the season.

“I didn't realize until the end of the game that he had five assists on the first five goals, but any time you have a night like that, it's quite a night,” Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. “You could see he was playing both ends of the rink though tonight.”

It was the fourth five-point game of Crosby's career, his third with five assists. Crosby most recently had five points in a five-assist game against the New York Islanders on March 10, 2013.

“A lot of things need to go right,” Crosby said. “Some of those plays you can make them on a nightly basis and sometimes they don't go in. Luckily tonight guys made some great plays and finished some plays off maybe when there wasn't much there either. You need some bounces to go right some time when the puck goes in that often.”

Crosby extended his scoring streak against the Sabres to 19 games. He has 10 goals and 26 assists during the streak, which started Dec. 29, 2007.

“I don't really have a great explanation for you,” Crosby said. “When I come here, for some reason, the ice has always been good and feels good that way. Sometimes that helps, but that being said, I don't think there's any real explanation. We've been in some low-scoring games here and got a fluky one at the end here or there. There's no rhyme or reason, but we've got to keep it going.”

Letang had two goals and two assists, and Hornqvist had two goals and an assist.

The Penguins led 3-0 after the first period on two goals from Letang and one from Hornqvist.

“I think you can really tell we have a respect for Buffalo,” Johnston said. “We watched them play [Friday] night, and I know they've got some young players they're building and they came out tonight, but I thought we had a lot of push, a lot of jump in our game. That just shows the respect for the opponent. The guys were prepared, they were ready to go. They don't take really anybody lightly.

“Everybody in this league on any given night can be a tough night. We didn't want to give Buffalo any hope early, and I thought we took that away from them in the first 10 minutes."

Hornqvist's second goal extended the lead to 4-0, and Pittsburgh went ahead 5-0 at 14:01 of the second period when Bortuzzo scored. Both of Hornqvist's goals came on the power play.

The Penguins went 2-for-5 with the man advantage against the Sabres after going 0-for-5 in a 4-3 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

“Our power play rebounded after an off night in Winnipeg,” Johnston said. “That's going to happen some nights. It was good to see they rebounded. They did a lot of work this morning with (assistant coach) Rick (Tocchet) on video and just some preparation of what they did the other night and what things went wrong, and I thought they corrected it.”

The four-point game was the second of Letang’s career. His first was March 2, 2013, against the Montreal Canadiens.

“Yeah, it’s always fun to score goals; I’m not going to lie about that,” Letang said. “But obviously when you look at those goals, Sid has been playing unbelievable lately. He’s carrying the team like he used to, and now we’re playing well.”

Zemgus Girgensons scored his third goal at 16:52 of the second when he tipped a Josh Gorges shot from the point over the shoulder of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 5-1.

“Zemgus is only one of the true ones that knows what it takes, and he competes all the time,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said.

Gorges was on the ice for all seven goals.

“We keep talking about it, but I got to face the facts: It’s not nearly good enough,” Gorges said. “My job is to be solid defensively, give the team a chance, be a leader, and to be scored on that many times is embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for myself. I got to be way better than that.”

Evgeni Malkin's sixth goal, with 45 seconds left in the second, put Pittsburgh ahead 6-1. He took a pass from Blake Comeau and snapped a quick wrist shot past Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.

The Penguins have won five consecutive games against the Sabres, outscoring them 23-3.

Fleury made 20 saves, and Enroth stopped 33.

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