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Crosby Continues Scoring Binge with Third Hat Trick of the Season

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

It looked bleak for the Penguins when Tim Kennedy tapped a pass from Mike Grier behind Marc-Andre Fleury at the 7:32 mark of the second period. Kennedy’s goal gave the Sabres a 3-1 lead.

Sidney Crosby was upset with himself after turning the puck over on the play that led to Buffalo’s third goal.

“That was a tough break,” Crosby said. “The guy made a good play. You still don’t want to turn the puck over. I just tried to come back strong.”

In the seconds immediately after Kennedy scored, Crosby skated to Fleury and promised he would get that one back.

“I just said ‘I’m sorry, that was my fault,’” Crosby said. “I’m sure that is not the first time I have said that to him and I’m sure that won’t be the last. Sometimes it works out that way. … I think we were pretty happy with how things turned out.”

Like all great players, Crosby walked the walk. He atoned for one of his rare mistakes by leading a four-goal second-period scoring spree, which included his third hat trick of the season, as the Penguins turned that two-goal deficit into a 5-4 come-from-behind victory on Monday night.

Things turned out pretty well as Crosby’s three-goal outburst gives him 37 on the season, placing him in a tie with Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks for the league lead. He is also now just two goals shy of tying his career high of 39, set in his rookie campaign in 2005-06.

“You start to see how much of a threat he is with his shots – not just taking more shots,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You or I can get more shots and it’s not much of a threat as he is right now.”

Crosby’s hat trick continues a dominant stretch of hockey which has seen him pick up 13 goals and 21 points over his past 13 games. With his third three-goal performance of the season, Crosby becomes the first Penguin to record three hat tricks in a single season since Alex Kovalev in 2001-02.

Crosby began almost single-handedly turning the game around just one minute after Chris Butler took a hooking penalty at 9:52. He would finish off a gorgeous passing sequence to record the game-changing power-play goal.

Evgeni Malkin tossed the puck from the near corner to Alex Goligoski at the center point. Goligoski took a step and faked a slap shot, which froze Miller. Goligoski then slid a pass to Crosby at the bottom of the right circle and he one-time a shot from a bad angle into an open cage.

“I think the power-play goal was a big part of us getting back in the game,” Bylsma said. “We got the power play there and they came with a lot of pressure. We made three or four or five plays to break their pressure and then Goligoski makes a great play. … It was a tough angle to score a goal from, but it was a great play from Crosby.

“I felt like tonight our power play getting that huge one was a boost for us,” Crosby said. “That is what we need. We need those momentum changers from both special teams and we were able to do that again tonight.”

Barely three minutes after Jordan Staal tallied to knot the game, 3-3, Crosby took advantage of a gaffe by Miller to give the Penguins a lead they would never relinquish.

Miller went behind the net following a dump-in by the Penguins and attempted to begin a breakout out of the zone with a pass to teammate Tyler Myers. However, Miller’s pass eluded the blade of Myers, and right there was Crosby to quickly get the puck on net, where it glanced off the catching glove of Miller and skidded over the goal line.

“On the second goal, after the turnover, he just rips the puck on net and it almost goes through Miller,” Bylsma said. “He was there for somewhat of a save but it goes through him.”

Crosby completed his hat trick 1:25-minutes later as the Penguins took advantage of a bad pinch by the Sabres.

Kris Letang made a long lead pass ahead to Crosby in the neutral zone during four-on-four action to spring him on a two-on-one with Pascal Dupuis. Crosby skated the puck towards the slot, made a couple slick stickhandling moves to drop Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman to the ice and then ripped a shot past the blocker of Miller for his fifth career hat trick.

“That third goal, as he is coming down, I am wondering what is going through the goalies head as he is making moves,” Bylsma said. “He finally lets the release go and it is a quick shot to the far side.”

Crosby said he was just taking advantage of the open space Buffalo was giving him as both teams played some firewagon hockey.

“The game kind of opened up in the second and third period, which is kind of a rare thing,” he said. “When you have two teams who can skate like that I think it is only natural to get your defensemen in on the rush. Depending on the kind of bounces you get and the decisions you make, it can make for some open hockey.”

As happy as he was with two more points in the standings and another out-of-this-world individual performance, he would have like to have picked up that elusive four-goal game.

“I had a few chances after that,” he said. “It would have been nice.”

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