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Crosby's hat trick leads Pens past Rangers

by Brian Compton /
Sidney Crosby made sure his fans didn't have their free hats for too long on Saturday night.

The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar notched his second hat trick of the season and added two assists as the defending Stanley Cup champs pummeled the New York Rangers by an 8-3 score on Cap Night at Mellon Arena.

Crosby fell a point short of his career high for points. He had six points with a goal and five assists Dec. 13, 2006, in an 8-4 win at Philadelphia. His plus-4 rating matched a career high.

"It's always fun to get the hat trick, but especially tonight it was a lot of fun," Crosby said. "It was pretty weird the way it worked out, but what better time to do it?"

Evgeni Malkin, Maxime Talbot, Mark Eaton, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy also scored for Pittsburgh, which has won six of eight and remained tied with the Washington Capitals with 36 points for the Eastern Conference lead.

Defensemen Marc Staal, Matt Gilroy and Michal Rozsival all scored for the Rangers, who have lost four of six and are 6-12-1 since a 7-1 start. It was the most goals they've allowed against Pittsburgh since Oct. 14, 2000.

"We were in the hockey game," Rangers center Vinny Prospal said. "We were close. It was totally different than in Tampa (Friday) … The effort was there tonight."

Crosby scored 17:43 into the contest to break a 1-1 tie and give Pittsburgh a lead it would never relinquish. After Staal and Malkin exchanged tallies, Crosby took a pass from Alex Goligoski and ripped a wrist shot past Rangers goalie Steve Valiquette.

"He's a great player," Malkin said of Crosby. "It's easy to play with him."

His second of the game came 3:14 into the third, 2:51 after Rozsival got the Rangers within one at 4-3. With Valiquette sprawled on the ice, Crosby took a feed from Malkin across the crease and banked it off Valiquette to make it 5-3.

"We played a great game tonight and got some breaks but we worked hard for them," Crosby said. "Anytime (your team) puts that many goals up, it's a fun game."

After Dupuis had made it 6-3, Crosby scored on the power play with 8:31 left. With the Penguins on a power play, No. 87 fired a wrist shot from the right circle just under the far crossbar, prompting the capacity crowd to toss their free caps that were handed out upon entry into the arena onto the ice.

"When I walked into the building and saw the free hats, the thought did cross my mind that hopefully somebody would get a hat trick to see those things on the ice," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "It takes a little bit of extra time, but I liked why they went on the ice."

There was a scary moment early in the third period, when Pens forward Matt Cooke blindsided Artem Anisimov with an elbow in the neutral zone. The play -- which will likely be reviewed by the League -- left Rangers coach John Tortorella furious.

"He cleared up," Tortorella said of Anisimov, who needed smelling salts on the Rangers' bench. "There's a big thing this year with these head shots. To me, it's pretty simple -- change the rulebook. Some of these guys that go about doing that have no fear at all as far as maybe a little retribution. It'll continue. That's why our game is more violent right now. I think guys hide behind that rulebook.

"He leaves his feet … it's an absolute head shot. The linesman jumps in when someone else (Donald Brashear) is trying to take care of business that should have been left alone. This is where our game is screwed up as far as I'm concerned. There's just no respect."

In a rare occurrence, Rangers forward Enver Lisin dressed but never left the Rangers' bench. Tortorella was asked for an explanation afterwards.

"If I had another player that was not playing tonight, he would have been out of the lineup," Tortorella said. "The guys that were playing and getting those minutes are the guys that I think give us the best chance to win."

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

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