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Penguins hand Predators first regulation loss

by Robby Stanley

NASHVILLE -- Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 win against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday.

It was Fleury's first shutout of the season and Nashville's first regulation loss (5-1-2). Predators goalie Pekka Rinne stopped 23 of 26 shots.

Crosby gave the Penguins (4-2-1) a 1-0 lead at 6:21 of the first period. The Penguins captain went behind the net after making a pass and was there to score on the rebound of a shot by Olli Maatta for his fifth goal of the season.

"I just tried to pass it across to [Chris Kunitz] and it nicked something and kind of hopped up," Crosby said. "I think Olli ended up joining the play and did a good job of just getting the puck toward the net, and we were just all right around the net trying to get a stick on it. It just kind of squeaked through there on the short side."

Nashville was unable to generate much offense and mustered 12 shots on goal through the first two periods. Fleury stopped the chances he faced but wasn't tested often.

"The first period we didn't give them much, the first and the second," Crosby said. "And then the third, they played desperate and they took some chances and we got on our heels a bit, but for the most part we did a pretty good job. [We] got in lanes when we needed to, and when [Fleury] plays the way he does it gives us a lot of confidence. He was real solid when we made some mistakes."

Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin made it 2-0 on the power play at 2:03 of the third period. Crosby had the puck at the point and was able to deliver a pass to Malkin, who snuck behind Nashville's defense and redirected the puck past Rinne.

"For [Malkin], there's been adjustments with linemates," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "There's been adjustments with not having a training camp, to playing the wing, to back playing center now. There's been a lot of things he's had to handle, but I like it right now where he's at."

Former Penguins forward James Neal took an offensive-zone penalty 1:47 after Malkin's goal to put the Penguins back on the power play.

"We're taking a lot of penalties in the offensive zone, and those are penalties that we really need to avoid," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "That's one thing I guess that sticks out to me. That's kind of happened through the first segment of games."

Pascal Dupuis gave the Penguins a 3-0 lead on that man advantage. Crosby passed the puck from behind the net to Steve Downie, who shot the puck toward Rinne. Dupuis snuck behind Predators forward Colin Wilson to collect the rebound and backhand the puck past Rinne at 5:25.

Pittsburgh's League-leading power play (40 percent) went 2-for-3 Saturday. The Penguins are converting at 45.4 percent on the road with the man advantage.

"We have a lot of skill. I mean every team has a lot of talent and a lot of skill, but you've got to find a way to execute that and make plays," Crosby said. "We did a good job of that tonight, especially that third one. It was late in the power play and wasn't going too well, so to find a way to sneak one in there was big for us."

Fleury was able to see the puck through traffic in the third period to withstand Nashville's late attack.

"Sometimes I didn't see [the puck] but it missed the net and some other times my guys blocked it," Fleury said. "Otherwise I just tried to move around and tried to see where it's coming from. The guys did a great job of keeping them to the outside and not giving them too much."

Pittsburgh not only held on to a third-period lead, but it was able to add to it. In games against the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings earlier this season, Pittsburgh had leads in the third period but didn't win.

"I thought our team took a big step tonight. I really believe we played the right way in the third period," Johnston said. "When we're talking about the right way, we're talking about if you're in trouble with the puck you lay the puck in behind pressure. Coming back on the backcheck, you stop in your zone and you play your lanes."

The Penguins return home to play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday; Nashville travels to Edmonton on Wednesday for the first of a six-game road trip.

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