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Crosby's goal pushes Penguins past Avalanche

by Wes Crosby /

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby thought he scored a late insurance goal, but instead it proved to be the difference in the Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Consol Energy Center on Thursday.

Pascal Dupuis tipped the puck forward to Crosby, who slid a shot through goaltender Reto Berra's five-hole for his third goal of the season to give the Penguins a 4-2 lead with 8:04 remaining.

Crosby ended a streak of six games without a goal dating to Nov. 4, when he scored in a 3-2 win against the Vancouver Canucks.

"You get those opportunities, you have to make the most of them," Crosby said. "At the time, I didn't think we were going to need it, but they definitely came hard there and had some really good chances. [Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury] made some saves, but it was nice to get one, for sure."

Pittsburgh (12-7-0) has scored four goals in back-to-back victories against the Minnesota Wild and the Avalanche after a closed-door meeting that followed a 4-0 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, but it struggled to close out a second consecutive win.

Forward Matt Duchene's second goal of the game, his Avalanche-leading 10th of the season, got Colorado within 4-3 with 1:23 remaining. The Avalanche took the last four shots of the game, including a wrist shot from captain Gabriel Landeskog that had a chance to tie it with 32 seconds remaining.

Colorado (7-11-1) has lost consecutive games after starting its seven-game road trip with three straight wins when it outscored opponents 13-3.

"I think what we take with us tonight isn't how we finished. It's just the fact that you have a mental lapse … it doesn't matter if it's two or three minutes, you can lose a game just like that," Landeskog said. "It changes around real quick and it goes from being us having it under control with a 1-0 lead (to Colorado trailing 3-1). A couple bad bounces obviously, but we have to make sure we can't take a shift off and we have to make sure we're on it the whole time."

Pittsburgh scored three goals in a span of 2:08 in the second period after trailing 1-0. Forward David Perron began the surge when a shot from defenseman Ian Cole deflected off his back past Berra at 5:35.

Evgeni Malkin continued his momentum from a four-point, two-goal game against the Wild on Tuesday with his Penguins-leading seventh goal of the season at 7:04. With Colorado defenseman Francois Beauchemin serving a high-sticking penalty, Malkin one-timed a slap shot off a feed from Kris Letang over Berra's glove for a 2-1 lead.

Chris Kunitz gave the Penguins a 3-1 lead 39 seconds later when he stripped Berra behind the net and pushed the puck to forward Nick Bonino, who centered a pass that Kunitz backhanded through a scrambling Berra.

"We got the first goal, got some energy off the crowd, and then we get the power play and then we get the one behind the net," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "Sometimes when you're playing at home, that momentum can really pick your team up, and I thought it did tonight. That was a critical turning point in the game."

Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie made it 3-2 with a snap shot past Fleury 8:49 into the third period. Barrie nearly scored midway through the first period when his shot hit the right post and Fleury's back before trickling along the goal line, but Malkin cleared the puck.

In a first period with six penalties, Colorado took advantage of its third power play to take a 1-0 lead with 25.3 seconds remaining. Duchene collected a rebound of Jarome Iginla's one-timer and took a wrist shot that deflected off the handle of Fleury's stick into the net.

Colorado's top line of Duchene, Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon has produced a bulk of its scoring this season, combining for 50 points and 25 goals. Iginla is the only other Avalanche forward to have scored at least 10 points, but coach Patrick Roy said he will not adjust the lineup to compensate for the inefficiency.

"They're going to stay like this. It'll be up to them to produce," Roy said. "It'll be up to them to play good 5-on-5. That line is playing good hockey for us and they're going to stay like this. The other lines, it's their job to find ways to compete and outplay the line that they play against. I'm not going to spread out our lineup. No way."

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