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Crosby's hat trick, Niskanen's late goal lift Penguins

by Lonnie Herman /

TAMPA -- Sidney Crosby was the star. Matt Niskanen was the hero.

Niskanen scored a power-play goal with 18.6 seconds left in regulation after Crosby had his eighth career hat trick as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 on Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Alex Killorn tied the game with 3:02 remaining in regulation by scoring with Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz in the penalty box for hooking. But Tampa Bay's Richard Panik was called for tripping with less than a minute remaining, and Niskanen beat Anders Lindback from the top of the left circle for Pittsburgh's third power-play goal of the night -- and his first goal in 22 games.

"We had to battle through some sloppy play but we did a good job battling back all night," Niskanen said. "We got lucky with them taking a silly penalty late in the game and we scored."

The Penguins improved to 4-1-0. Tampa Bay fell to 3-2-0 and had its three-game winning streak ended.

Crosby tied the game 1-1 when he scored a power-play goal 2:14 into the second period. He got the Penguins even at 3-3 with his second of the night 25 seconds into the third period and put Pittsburgh ahead for the first time at 10:26 when he completed his hat trick for a 4-3 lead.

He scored two of his goals from just outside the crease. His first was a rebound of a hard shot from the high slot by Jussi Jokinen and his second was a deflected shot from defenseman Rob Scuderi.

"Pucks are going to be around there," Crosby said about going to the net. "It's not an easy place to go, and you're going to have to force yourself to go there as much as you can. Luckily there were some pucks around there, and I was able to get some good quality chances from there."

Crosby also assisted on Niskanen's game-winner. He has nine points so far this season and has at least one in each of Pittsburgh's five games.

"His hat trick goal was huge for us," said coach Dan Bylsma, whose team lost 6-3 to the Florida Panthers on Friday night and wanted to avoid a sweep of its two-game trip. "I loved the response and the leadership from our team, coming out there in the third period and coming out with a goal on the first shift."

Valtteri Filppula opened the scoring 13:25 into the game when he deflected Killorn's shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, who finished with 14 saves. It was Filppula's fourth goal of the season and third in two games.

Each team scored twice in the second period. Crosby tied it just over two minutes in and Steven Stamkos made it 2-1 at 5:11 with his fourth goal in two games. Brooks Orpik tied the game again at 7:01 when he deflected a shot by Pascal Dupuis into the net, but Teddy Purcell put Tampa Bay in front for the third time when he got a piece of Sami Salo's shot and tipped it past Fleury.

In all, the game was tied four times and neither team led by more than one goal.

"I think that was an even hockey game," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "They got that last break at the end and capitalized on it."

Though the Lightning generated only two shots on goal in the third period, Cooper thought the period was not one-sided.

"Obviously we had two shots on goal that hit the net," Cooper said. "If I'm correct, we hit a post in the third. Ours [were] missing the net. Theirs were hitting sticks and going in the net. To me that was the difference. I didn't think the ice was tilted at all.

"I thought we were fine. If we just get one penalty kill, we're still playing. I thought it was one heck of a hockey game. The fans got their money's worth. They got the last good break with the least amount of time left and that's how it ended."

Cooper wasn't thrilled with the penalty on Panik, who was called for tripping Orpik.

"The last one? To be honest, I think we all saw it," Cooper said. "Did our guy give them a chance to call a penalty? He did. The guy, whoever it was, went down pretty easy. So, I don't know. It's on our guy, because he gave the ref the chance to make the call, so he's going no matter what. It's the ref's decision there, and now he has to make the call. Did the guy embellish it? In that situation, the ref decided he did
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