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Crosby's goal beats Rangers 4-3

by John Kreiser
When the Pittsburgh Penguins need a big goal, they know who to turn to.

Sidney Crosby scored the go-ahead goal with 10:04 remaining, extending his points streak to 15 games and giving the Penguins a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday.

"He's a go-to guy," said teammate Max Talbot, who had a goal and an assist as Pittsburgh won for the fifth time in six games. "He always wants those big goals, and he got it again. It's definitely two huge points for us."

The Penguins closed out a 10-1-2 March by improving to a 5-1-1 on their franchise-record, eight-game homestand. Pittsburgh climbed three points ahead of the seventh-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference playoff race by beating New York for the fifth consecutive time at Mellon Arena.

It was a tough loss for the Rangers, who remained seventh with 87 points, one more than Montreal and two in front of ninth-place Florida.

"It’s a big loss because we were right with them the whole game," said defenseman Marc Staal, who played just under 29 minutes. "We kept coming back and showed a lot of character."

Pittsburgh survived an 0-for-9 performance on the power play and improved to 14-2-3 since Dan Bylsma took over as coach when Michel Therrien was fired.

"I think as a team we've been playing well, and we just need to continue playing well in the last six games and into the playoffs," said Fedotenko, who had only three points in his previous 15 games. "That's the most important thing, to get on kind of a hot streak going into the playoffs."

Pittsburgh had wasted leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before Crosby took a pass from Fedotenko in the neutral zone, raced up ice and split defensemen Wade Redden and Derek Morris before beating Henrik Lundqvist.

"Feds just won his battle along the wall, and I was just able to pick up some speed through the neutral zone," said Crosby, who has at least a point in all 11 games since returning from a groin injury. "The pass was right on my stick, and I was able to split the D and get a pretty good shot away."

Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead on goals by Talbot and Matt Cooke 2:23 apart midway though the first period. But the Rangers tied it when Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky beat Marc-Andre Fleury 87 seconds apart late in the period. Dubinsky's wraparound with under five seconds left sent the teams off to the locker rooms even at 2-2.

Fedotenko gave Pittsburgh the lead again 4:14 into the second when he finished a two-on-one with Jordan Staal. But the Rangers tied it again with 4:44 left in the period on Antropov's rebound goal, his 27th of the season and sixth in 12 games with New York.

"It was a good hockey game that could have gone either way," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "They scored a big goal because we gave up the center of the ice. They scored the big goal to beat us, but our guys stuck with it and almost pulled it out."

Hurricanes 2, Devils 1
| Video

Carolina is peaking at just the right time, while New Jersey chose a bad time to go flat. Tuomo Ruutu's power-play goal with 3:34 to play gave the visiting Hurricanes their sixth consecutive win and kept them in fifth place in the East.

New Jersey led 1-0 with less than seven minutes remaining on Patrik Elias' first-period goal. Carolina bombarded Martin Brodeur but couldn't beat him until Joe Corvo fired a shot from the right point and Sergei Samsonov pounced on the rebound to tie it at 1-1 -- on Carolina's 43rd shot.

Ruutu won it when he knocked in a rebound from the slot after Eric Staal tried to jam the puck past Brodeur.

"It was in traffic and I just got the bounce," Ruutu said.

Brodeur was hoping for a whistle before Ruutu wound up with the puck.

"I thought I had it," Brodeur said. "That should have been a quick whistle. You get calls on your side sometimes, and sometimes it goes the other way. I thought I had control enough."

It is Carolina's best run since the Hurricanes won nine in a row from Dec. 31, 2005-Jan. 19, 2006. The 'Canes are fifth in the East, one point behind Philadelphia.

"It's been huge, but it's important that we bear down for the last five games," Ward said. "We haven't done anything yet, but we've certainly set ourselves up for some success. We haven't clinched yet, so we have to continue to fight."

The Devils have had a tough week, losing four games in seven days -- including a 3-2 overtime loss at Chicago on Friday. The Atlantic Division leaders remained third in the East, one point behind Washington.

"It's got to be a learning experience," coach Brent Sutter said. "It's playoff hockey now. You're going to get into these one-goal games and you've got to do the detail work and the little things well."

Flyers 4, Islanders 3 (SO) | Video

Coaches preach that winning requires a 60-minute effort. The Flyers shot holes in that theory, basically not showing up for two periods before rallying for three third-period goals and winning in the shootout on goals by Daniel Briere and Mike Richards.

The Flyers were outplayed badly in the first 40 minutes. But the punchless Islanders managed only a first-period goal by defenseman Radek Martinek and a second-period tally by Jeff Tambellini -- who swatted a loose puck out of the air in the right circle and one-hopped it past Martin Biron.

But Philadelphia needed just 8:19 of the third period to take the lead. Joffrey Lupul scored at 4:24 on a stoppable shot from the right circle, Scott Hartnell banged in Jeff Carter's rebound at 6:39 and Lupul beat Yann Danis again just 1:40 later.

"For two periods, we weren't there at all," Biron said. "In the third period, we made things happen."

Mark Streit tied the game with a quick shot from the slot 32 seconds after Lupul's second goal, but only Frans Nielsen scored in the shootout for the Isles while both Briere and Richards easily beat Danis with backhand dekes.

"The first two periods were frustrating," Lupul said. "We were working, but not making things happen."

The Islanders, who stunned the Red Wings with a 2-0 win at Detroit on Friday, are still last in the NHL with 59 points -- though they've been playing far better than they did earlier in the season.

"We've been playing a lot better," rookie Kyle Okposo said. "We know we can win with the guys in this locker room."

Panthers 6, Stars 3 | Video

Florida's playoff hopes are alive and well after the Panthers overcame two one-goal deficits to rout the Stars and move Dallas another step closer to playoff elimination after its sixth consecutive loss.

Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton scored in the final minute of the second period to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead, and Kamil Kreps beat Marty Turco 58 seconds into the third period to complete a quick turnaround.

Florida's second road win in three nights gives the Panthers 86 points, one behind eighth-place Montreal and two behind the seventh-place New York Rangers. Florida has its next three games and four of the last six at home.

"We wanted to get two of three on this trip, and we got them," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got three home games and we've got to take care of business. Hopefully at the end of the day we'll look up and be in."

Dallas remained 12th in the West with 75 points, six out of a playoff spot with seven games to play. The Stars are 0-5-1 in their last six games.

Weiss took a pass on the right side and beat Turco to tie it at 2 with 59.5 seconds remaining in the second. Horton flipped a shot over the sprawling goalie during a scramble to give the Panthers the lead with 6.2 seconds left. Kreps made it 4-2 with a backhander past Turco.

Chris Conner's goal with 7:33 left gave the Stars some hope, but Jay Bouwmeester restored Florida's two-goal lead with 4:54 to play and Radek Dvorak hit the empty net to wrap up the win.
"We'd gone through a bit of a down stretch, so this was big," Bouwmeester said. "With six games left, we have to basically win all of them to control our own destiny."

Craig Anderson, who won Thursday night in Philadelphia, stopped 32 shots -- including 14 in the first period when the Stars dominated play.

"I knew I was putting him in a tough situation," DeBoer said. "He's shown his character. I think the guys see that and have responded for him."

Mike Ribeiro scored in the first period for the Stars and Matt Niskanen made it 2-1 at 9:04 of the second period.

"There's no time to wait around and see what other teams are going to do," Niskanen said. "All we can control is how we play and start winning games."

Bruins 7, Maple Leafs 5 | Video

Five days off didn't do much for Boston's defensive game. But the shooters looked just fine, with Mark Recchi scoring twice as the Bruins moved two points closer to locking up first place in the Eastern Conference.

Recchi's power-play goal at 9:04 of the second period tied the game at 4-4 and started a four-goal blitz in an 8:03 span for the Bruins, who have 104 points -- five more than Washington with two games in hand.

Boston coach Claude Julien isn't about to declare victory, however.

"We've got our own issues," he said. "Just because we're in a playoff spot doesn't mean that everything's OK. Our play in the last month and a half hasn't been up to par. We need to get better in our game.

"So those games do mean something for us. It's about fine-tuning ourselves and getting some momentum heading into the playoffs."

Each team scored twice in a wild first period, with Recchi's first goal tying the game at 19:33. Alex Ponikarovsky's second goal of the night 6:06 into the second period gave the Leafs a brief lead.
Goaltender Manny Fernandez, who hadn't played since March 8, said the break shouldn't be an excuse for the defensive struggles.

"You want to take that positively," Fernandez said. "Playoffs are around the corner. I think at that point it would be a good time to have maybe five days off and maybe rest a little bit. We've been hoping to turn things around and that's the direction we're trying to take."

It was Toronto's fifth loss in six games against Boston this season, and the second in which the Leafs allowed seven or more goals.

"It's a tough loss, giving up seven goals is never fun," said forward Niklas Hagman, who scored in the third period. "We made it tough on our goalies. As a team, we need to play better."

Thrashers 6, Senators 3 | Video

Atlanta continues to play well, even with nothing to play for. Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 40th of the season and the Thrashers blew the game open by connecting three times in less than three minutes late in the second period.

"I'd trade all my goals for a playoff spot," said Kovalchuk, who has at least 40 goals in five consecutive seasons.

The Thrashers, who have won two straight and eight of 11, broke open a 2-2 game on goals by Tobias Enstrom, Marty Reasoner and Colby Armstrong in a span of 2:58. Ryan Shannon made it 5-3 with a power-play goal 1:50 into the third period, but Slava Kozlov's power-play goal at 9:23 assured Atlanta of the victory.

Kovalchuk, who also had an assist on Enstrom's goal, scored his milestone goal with 10 seconds left in the opening period. The seven-year veteran, who has 294 career goals, has 4 goals and 5 assists in his last four games.

"It's easy to score when everybody plays well. We're building some momentum for next year,"
Kovalchuk said of the Thrashers (32-38-6). "I'll try for (300 goals). A couple of hat tricks and you're there."

Jason Spezza scored twice in the first period for Ottawa, which is two points closer to missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

"We played a decent first period, made good goals," Spezza said. "Had a horrible second period, and they just outplayed us after that."

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

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