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Richard race still too close to call

by Phil Coffey
It's coming right down to the wire for the Rocket Richard Trophy for most goals in the regular season.

Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby leads the NHL with 49 goals -- he nearly had 50, but more on that later -- and Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos are right on his heels with 48 each.

All three players have two games remaining to make the trophy their own. Crosby's Penguins are in Atlanta Saturday night and finish the regular season Sunday on Long Island. Ovechkin's Capitals play the Thrashers Friday and finish the regular season at home against the Bruins Sunday. The Lightning have a home-and-home series with the Panthers Saturday and Sunday.

Thursday night against the Islanders, Crosby scored a goal and nearly had a pair, but video replay showed a goal originally credited to him had touched teammate Bill Guerin, so back to 49 for Crosby.

Even without the second goal, it was quite the night for Crosby, who also had 3 assists in the 7-3 win, as he notched the 500th point of his career in his 369th game -- making him the third-youngest player to reach the 500-point mark, four games faster than Ovechkin. The only players to get to 500 points at a younger age than Crosby (22 years, 244 days) were Wayne Gretzky (21 years, 52 days) and Mario Lemieux (22 years, 172 days).

"It's one of those numbers," Crosby said. "It's a nice accomplishment. You don't think about those things a lot."

As for the goal that went to Guerin, Crosby took a slap shot with the Penguins on the power play. The drive from the top of the right circle, at 14:34 of the second period, sped past Dwayne Roloson. Replay showed the puck hit off Guerin.

"I thought right away when I shot it, I thought it hit Billy's leg or hand," Crosby said. "Obviously, I asked him right after and he said it did go off his pants. It would have been great to be able to get it here, but at the end of the day goals go to guys that deserve them and he deserved that one."

And Crosby has two more chances to get to 50 goals, one of the few offensive feats he has yet to achieve.

In Tampa, Stamkos continued his remarkable season when he scored on the power play -- again -- for his 48th goal of the season. Stamkos leads the NHL in power-play goals with 22, and moved into a tie with Ovechkin with the goal.

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