The Penguins and Thrashers entered Thursday night’s contest as the two hottest teams in the NHL. Pittsburgh was riding a seven-game winning streak and 10-game unbeaten stretch (9-0-1), while Atlanta had won six straight games.
Something had to give.
The Penguins handled the up-and-coming Thrashers, claiming the crown with a 3-2 victory. The Thrashers were a handful and kept the game close to the bitter end. But Pittsburgh pulled off yet another gutty win for their eighth-consecutive triumph.
Sidney Crosby continued his stupid good goal-scoring dominance with his first-career natural hat trick. Crosby now has seven-career hat tricks, and has recorded three goals in back-to-back home games.
The Penguins held a 3-2 lead entering the third period. Pittsburgh made smart, simple plays and held Atlanta to just five shots in the final 20 minutes. Maxime Talbot laid out on the ice to block a heavy shot from Dustin Byfuglien as the clock expired. It’s that type of effort that epitomizes the dirty work it takes win eight straight.
The win improves the Penguins record to 17-8-2 for 36 points, and have overtaken Philadelphia (15-7-4-34) for the lead in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins sit just two points behind Washington (who plays late Thursday in Dallas) for the Eastern Conference lead.
Sidney Crosby is already the best hockey player in the universe. And somehow, he just keeps getting better.
Crosby extended his scoring streak to 14 games – the longest in the NHL this season and third-longest of his career – with a three-goal effort. It was Crosby’s first-career natural hat trick. Crosby also had a hat trick in the Penguins’ last game at CONSOL Energy Center (Nov. 27 vs. Calgary), making him the first Penguin since Alex Kovalev (Feb. 7, 2001 vs. Philadelphia; Feb. 10, 2001 vs. New Jersey) to record back-to-back home hat tricks.
On Crosby’s first goal, he took a pass at the side of the net. His momentum was carrying him backwards, away from the puck. But he managed to stop the puck, reach out and hack it above a sprawling Ondrej Pavelec.
Crosby jumped on the ice for a late shift change and was the only man in the neutral zone when Arron Asham hit him with a pass for a breakaway. Crosby took the pass skating backwards, spun around and stayed onside as he entered the zone. He deked and whipped a backhand shot through Pavelec’s five-hole.
For Crosby’s grand finish, he sneaked behind two Atlanta defenders and re-directed a shot from the point by Brooks Orpik into the cage. Crosby was makin’ it rain hats at CONSOL Energy Center.
Arron Asham returned to the lineup after missing the last game with an illness. He made his presence felt with a great play to spring Crosby on a breakaway.
Asham blocked a shot from the point with his skate. He settled the puck and then flipped a pass out of the zone to Crosby near the Atlanta blue line. Crosby took care of the rest by scoring his second goal of the game to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. That goal sprang the Penguins to victory.
(AP) - Sidney Crosby scored all three Pittsburgh goals for the first natural hat trick of his six-season career and the Penguins won a matchup of teams on long winning streaks, beating the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Thursday night.
With Crosby becoming the first Penguins player in nearly 10 years to score three goals in successive home games, Pittsburgh ran its winning streak to eight games. Atlanta's franchise record-tying six-game streak ended.
The Penguins, 10-0-1 in their last 11, are on their longest winning streak since they also won eight in a row from Dec. 23, 2007-Jan. 10, 2008. They have won their last eight at home against Atlanta, which had outscored opponents 22-5 during its winning streak.
• Sidney Crosby extended his season-long scoring streak to 14 games with three goals against Atlanta. During that 14-game stretch, which is the longest in the NHL and third-longest streak of his career, Crosby has posted 29 points (15G-14A). For some perspective, only eight players in the NHL had 29 points this entire season entering the evening.
• Crosby’s hat trick was also his second in as many games at CONSOL Energy Center. He became the first Penguin to post back-to-back home hat tricks since Alex Kovalev in 2001 (Feb. 7 vs. PHI; Feb. 10 vs. NJ).
• Crosby now has 31 points (11G-20A) in 20 career games against Atlanta.
• The Penguins also recorded a hat trick against Thrashers Nov. 12 in Atlanta when Evgeni Malkin scored thrice for Pittsburgh. The Penguins can make it 3-for-3 when they host Atlanta Dec. 28.
• The Penguins stretch of 32-straight penalty kills was snapped in the first period on Bryan Little’s power-play goal. It was the first power-play goal allowed by Pittsburgh in the past 10 games.