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Crosby's OT goal ends nine-game drought

by Brian Compton
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was less than five minutes away from extending the longest scoring drought of his career to 10 games.

But his talent and phenomenal hand-eye coordination simply wouldn't allow it.

Crosby scored 43 seconds into overtime on Monday night, as the Penguins rebounded from one of their worst efforts of the season with a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Not only was it the type of emotional lift the Pens were looking for -- especially after Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs -- but it also helped Crosby snap out of a rare offensive funk.

"It took a while, but you go through those stints in a season," Crosby said. "Hopefully this will start me off on the right foot from here on in."

Crosby put an end to his drought when he tipped Evgeni Malkin's shot past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, albeit in controversial fashion. After reviewing the play for roughly two minutes, referee Justin St. Pierre announced that Crosby's stick was indeed under the crossbar when it made contact with Malkin's shot.

"I thought that my top hand may be above the crossbar … I was kind of flirting with danger there," said Crosby, who hadn't scored since notching a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils on Nov. 29. "But I knew the bottom part was kind of on an angle down. That might have saved me when I tipped it. I hit it pretty close to the blade."

Much like many in the crowd, Miller felt Crosby's stick was above the crossbar.

''I didn't get a great look, but from my gut feel I thought it was a little high,'' said Miller, who finished with 18 saves. ''Let's just hope they make the right call in Toronto.''

While Crosby tallied the game-winner, the Penguins received a lot of help from unusual sources on Monday night. Alex Goligoski scored twice and added an assist, and Pascal Dupuis converted on his only shot of the night. Dupuis missed Saturday's loss due to a lower-body injury.

"That's very important," Crosby said of the secondary scoring. "You're not going to get too far without that. With the amount of injuries we're facing, we need a lot of guys to step up, and we've had that in the games that we've won. We need to continue that."

Things didn't look good early for the Penguins, as Buffalo needed just 60 seconds to break the scoreless tie. From the top of the right circle, Daniel Paille ripped a shot that deflected off Pittsburgh defenseman Philippe Boucher and past Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Paille's fourth goal of the season.

The Sabres grabbed a 2-0 lead when Ales Kotalik notched his eighth goal of the campaign at 5:23 of the second period, as he took a pass from Paille and beat Fleury on a breakaway.

''We played hard, so it was a tough break,'' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ''I thought our guys did a great job against a very skilled team.''

The Penguins got on the comeback trail just 55 seconds later when Dupuis cut the deficit in half. With the teams at even strength, Dupuis took a pass from Miroslav Satan and let go a shot from the slot that found its way past Miller to make it 2-1. Goligoski tied things up with his first goal of the night at 12:23 of the second on another even-strength tally, as he beat Miller on a wrist shot from the point.

Buffalo regained the lead on a power-play goal by Clarke MacArthur with 4:02 left in the second, but Goligoski sent the game to overtime with a power-play tally of his own at 11:17 of the third.

''We haven't been playing that well, so that's a great road win against a good team,'' Goligoski said. ''It's good for the locker room right now.''

Fleury finished with 32 saves for the Penguins, while Buffalo went 1-for-6 with the man advantage. Pittsburgh -- just 4-5-1 this month -- has won two of its last three games. The Pens will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night in their final game before the holiday break.

''We are managing the puck really well and we found a way to come back,'' Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. ''To be able to win that game in overtime, it's a big boost of confidence.''
Material from wire services and broadcast media was used in this report.

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