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game recap

Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury spark Penguins

Center gets 10th NHL hat trick, goalie makes 21 saves in win against Panthers

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby thought he had to compensate for Evgeni Malkin's absence Sunday.

Crosby did that and more with a hand from Marc-Andre Fleury. He earned his 10th NHL hat trick and Fleury made 21 saves to help the Pittsburgh Penguins defeat the Florida Panthers 4-0 at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday.


WATCH: All Panthers vs. Penguins highlights


Crosby leads the League with 40 goals, three more than Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. He is tied with Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid for the lead in points with 80. 

"Sometimes those chances go in, sometimes they don't," Crosby said. "Today, I got some nice passes and guys created things, and I just happened to be in the right spot. … We know the situation we're in. We know there's a few teams and we're all fighting for that No. 1 spot."

Video: FLA@PIT: Crosby beats Reimer for the third time

Pittsburgh (45-17-9, 99 points), which is 7-1-1 in its past nine games, is one point behind the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets for first place in the Metropolitan Division. 

The hat trick was Crosby's first since Feb. 2, 2016, when he had four points (three goals, one assist) in a 6-5 win against the Ottawa Senators. He has five goals in his past two games, each without Malkin, and six goals in his past four games. 

The Penguins have won two straight without Malkin, who is day to day with an upper-body injury.

"I think everybody wants to collectively make sure that we make up for the guys that are out," Crosby said.

Fleury earned his first shutout since Feb. 29, 2016, when he made 30 saves in a 6-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes. He is 11-3-3 in his past 19 decisions since losing five straight (0-3-2) from Nov. 3-25. 

"It's been awhile," Fleury said. "I was happy to make it until the end. There were a few series in there that were fun, but I thought our guys did great. … We didn't give them too many chances 5-on-5."

Florida (31-29-11, 73 points) is six points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Video: FLA@PIT: Crosby rips home a quick wrister short-side

"We're an organization going in the right direction and you're going to go through some painful days like we did today … and that's how you're going to get better," Panthers coach Tom Rowe said. "We have a lot of good pieces. It's just we have to reevaluate when the season's over. … These are the days when it really feels painful."

Crosby's first goal extended Pittsburgh's lead to 2-0 at 14:15 of the second period. Conor Sheary dropped the puck to Jake Guentzel, who moved it over to Crosby in the right circle, where he held the puck before shooting past Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk and goalie James Reimer's glove. 

Sheary and Guentzel set up Crosby again to make it 3-0 at 16:07 of the second and once more for a natural hat trick at 5:00 of the third to make it 4-0. 

Video: Fleury earns Sunday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout

Patric Hornqvist gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 16:14 of the first. 

Reimer made 24 saves. 


Goal of the game

On Crosby's second goal, Guentzel passed above the crease to Crosby, who kept the puck away from Keith Yandle with his left skate. Crosby spun off Yandle and backhanded a shot through Reimer.

Video: FLA@PIT: Crosby tallies on a spinning backhander


Save of the game

Reimer kept the Penguins from taking a four-goal lead late in the second period when Nick Bonino led a rush into the Panthers zone with Tom Kuhnhackl to his right. Bonino passed to Kuhnhackl, who took a wrist shot but was denied when Reimer shrugged it away with his left shoulder with 2:13 left in the second.


Highlight of the game

After Matt Cullen shoveled the puck down the far wall behind the net, Phil Kessel lobbed it over the net, which allowed Hornqvist to bat it out of midair through Reimer. The goal ended Hornqvist's 12-game drought. 

Video: FLA@PIT: Hornqvist knocks home puck out of mid-air


Unsung performance of the game

Defenseman Ian Cole entered Sunday with 172 blocks, the most in a single season in Penguins history. He added to that total by leading Pittsburgh with three blocks Sunday. Cole also had three takeaways.


They said it

"It's great. We're so happy for him. He's such a good person and a great pro, and a good teammate." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan on Fleury getting the shutout

Video: FLA@PIT: Fleury snags Smith's wrister with his glove


"That's why he's the best. We weren't able to do the job against him tonight. … Not to take anything away from him, but we didn't score any. He came up with some goals at some key times." -- Panthers forward Derek MacKenzie on Crosby


Need to know

Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr joined Gordie Howe, Mark Messier and Ron Francis as the only players to appear in 1,700 NHL games. During the first period, the Penguins played a tribute video documenting Jagr's 11 seasons in Pittsburgh. … Kessel's assist on Hornqvist's goal was his Penguins-leading 41st of the season. 


What's next

Panthers: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-CR, NHL.TV)

Penguins: At the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG-B, ROOT, NHL.TV)


Video: Crosby's hat trick powers Pens to a 4-0 win

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