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Penguins 4, Avalanche 3 @NHLdotcom

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The rookie came through with one of Pittsburgh's biggest goals in a season notable mostly for the Penguins' underachievement. Only, it wasn't Sidney Crosby.

Maxime Talbot scored the decisive goal in the third period and Mark Recchi, stalled for weeks in a one of the longest slumps of his career, had a goal and an assist to help the Penguins end a six-game losing streak and beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 Saturday night.

Talbot followed up his own rebound of Lasse Pirjeta's shot from the right circle slightly past the midway point of the third, and the Penguins held on despite rookie Marek Svatos' 14th goal with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

``We talked a lot before the game about putting the puck on the net, something we haven't been doing,'' Talbot said. The Penguins outshot the Avalanche 35-26 two nights after they were held to 22 shots in a 5-0 loss to Minnesota.

After that game, the 18-year-old Crosby was critical of his teammates' lack of effort and suggested some players simply gave up on the game, unusually stinging criticism for a player who so far has been respectful of his veteran teammates.

That performance led to a team meeting Friday called by coach Eddie Olczyk and attended by general manager Craig Patrick, and the Penguins responded with one of the few strong defensive games they've played while going 8-15-6.

``We did all the little things and got timely goals, the power play chipped in and we got great penalty killing and excellent goaltending and good determination in the dressing room,'' Olczyk said. ``We weren't going to settle for anything less than a win.''

Talbot said that was important after the Penguins seemed to settle all too easily for a loss against the Wild.

``There was a big difference in this game and the last game,'' Talbot said. ``That last game was horrible. We gave a lot of effort for 60 minutes and we got a win and it feels really good.''

The Avalanche couldn't get the tying goal despite having a power play in the final two minutes and keeping the puck in the Pittsburgh zone nearly the rest of the game.

``We definitely played a desperate team,'' Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. ``You can really tell it was a meaningful game on their end of it.''

Despite goals by Milan Hejduk, Dan Hinote and Svatos, the Avalanche stayed perfect four times they've played on successive nights - each time they've won the first game and lost the second. They beat New Jersey 4-3 in a shootout Friday night.

Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the 2003 No. 1 draft pick, made 23 saves to win at home for the first time in four starts this season. The Penguins had lost three in a row and were 1-5-1 in their last seven at home, where they were 0-9-1 against Colorado since the former Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver in 1995.

Colorado was 1-of-8 on the power play, though Hejduk scored on a 4-on-3 to tie it at 1 after Recchi put in a rebound of Matt Murley's one-handed shot from the slot.

``They played hard but we gave them a lot of help, and our power play wasn't as effective as it should have been,'' Colorado's Rob Blake said.

Recchi began the game with a minus-20, the worst mark of the NHL's 749 players this season. The 464-goal scorer had no goals in 10 games and only one in 14 before scoring his eighth.

Pittsburgh's Dick Tarnstrom scored late in the first on a rebound on his own shot off Recchi's pass from behind the net, and rookie Eric Christensen made it 3-1 by redirecting Sergei Gonchar's shot past goalie Vitaly Kolesnik early in the second.

But the Penguins couldn't hold that two-goal lead - Hinote scored late in the second off a rebound of Blake's shot from the blue line - or another at 4-2.

Kolesnik had won his first two starts since being called up from the minor league Lowell Lock Monsters earlier this week but couldn't follow up his Friday night win, allowing four goals on 35 shots.

``He had some momentum going on his side,'' Quenneville said of his decision to play Kolesnik for the third time in four nights. ``I think he played very well and gave us a chance to win.''

The Penguins were 0-7-1 against the Avalanche the previous five seasons, and hadn't beaten them since a 3-2 decision on Feb. 25, 1999. The last Pittsburgh home victory over the Quebec/Colorado franchise was Feb. 21, 1995.

Notes: Joe Sakic assisted on Hejduk's goal and has at least one point in nine consecutive games. ... Avalanche starting goalie David Aebischer was the backup after being sitting out Friday. ... Colorado had won two straight and five of seven.

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