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Crosby Gets First 'Nattie Hattie'

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Just when you think Sidney Crosby can’t possibly find another way to score goals, he surprises you.

The Penguins captain tallied three-consecutive goals to net the first natural hat trick of his career in a 3-2 win over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday. With the victory, Pittsburgh has now extended its winning streak to eight games and is on a 10-0-1 unbeaten stretch.

“I wish I could help you out with a better adjective on some of the plays (Crosby) made,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “I shouldn’t be surprised, but I did shake my head a couple times after those goals.”
Crosby’s trio, the seventh of his career, was the difference in a game that could have gone either way until the final buzzer sounded. The captain has now extended his point streak to 14 games with 29 points (15G-14A) over that stretch, the longest current-active in the NHL.

“It was fun,” Crosby said. “We generated some good chances and guys made some good plays on the goals. It was nice just to get the win.”

“Obviously, he expects a lot out of himself and pushes himself a lot,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said, who’s played with Crosby since he entered the league in 2005. “This is as good as I’ve seen him play the all-around game.”

Crosby’s first tally came at the 7:52 mark of the first period, when Chris Kunitz found him with a pass as he crashed the net. Crosby managed to corral the puck through two Thrashers defensemen and roof it over goalie Ondrej Pavelec with a golf-like chip shot.

Crosby then proceeded to capitalize on a pretty play at the 4:24 mark of the second. He had just stepped onto the ice after a Penguins line change when Arron Asham intercepted a pass and threw the puck to a wide-open Crosby for a breakaway. Crosby deked Pavelec wide and backhanded the puck through his five-hole.

“I was fortunate to be hanging back behind the D and (Asham) makes the great pass, Kunitz finds me there on the side of the net,” Crosby said. “That’s just the way it went. We worked hard and generated some passes.”

His third tally of the night, scored with 9:36 remaining in the second, proved to be the game-winning goal. It came as he tipped an Orpik shot on his backhand past Pavelec.

“He is at that higher pace and that higher level out there,” forward Pascal Dupuis said of his linemate’s accomplishments. “We’re just trying to execute when the play’s there and push the pace to just help him achieve what he’s on right now, that nice little roll.”

Crosby also scored a hat trick in the team’s last home game at CONSOL Energy Center on Nov. 27, a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames. The last time a Penguin scored three goals in back-to-back games was Alex Kovalev in 2001 (Feb. 7 vs. Philadelphia; Feb. 10 vs. New Jersey).

Crosby now leads the NHL in both goals (21) and points (44). Through 27 games this season, Crosby has been held scoreless just four times.

“I hope I have to keep answering them,” he said of fielding questions on his goals. “It’s nice to see them go in. Sometimes you play well and they don’t. You want to make the most of chances you get.”

And if he does, he’ll have to keep answering those questions.
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