NHL: Crosby's 3 goals led Pens past Sabres 5-4
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby scored three goals in slightly more than eight minutes of the second period as the Pittsburgh Penguins quickly turned a two-goal deficit into a two-goal lead, then held on to beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 tonight.
Crosby tied Patrick Marleau of idle San Jose for the NHL goals lead with 37 by following up his game-altering performance during the Penguins' 2-1 shootout win Sunday against Detroit with an even better one. Crosby's hat trick was his third of the season and fifth of his career, and the Penguins pressed unsuccessfully to try to get him a fourth goal in the final period.
After protecting a two-goal lead for much of the period, the Penguins were holding on at the end. Jason Pominville scored on a power play with 3 minutes remaining, and the Penguins were forced to kill off Brooks Orpik's holding penalty with 2:04 remaining as goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made several excellent saves in the closing seconds.
Crosby, who scored in regulation and in the shootout on Sunday, gave Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller a pre-Olympics reminder of how he is capable of taking over a game. Miller could be in net for the United States when it plays Crosby-led Canada on Feb. 21 in Vancouver, and Crosby already knows he can beat him in a variety of ways.
Crosby got the Penguins to within 3-2 on a power play at 10:53 of the second, almost fanning on a shot off Alex Goligoski's pass from center point but still getting enough on it to get it past Miller. He had made a combined 69 saves while winning his previous two starts.
Miller's frustration showed, too, when he yanked Crosby's skates out from underneath him as a play was ending less than two minutes into the third period.
After Jordan Staal tied it with a wrist shot that deflected off Miller's right arm, Crosby took advantage of a Buffalo giveaway to score at 17:30. Miller was clearing the puck behind the net only to have it ricochet off defenseman Tyler Myers' skate directly to Crosby, whose shot rebounded off the goalie and trickled across the goal line.
Crosby scored again at 18:55, working a break with Kris Letang to score on a hard wrist shot, causing a shower of caps onto the ice.
The Penguins captain has never had a four-goal game in the NHL, and it was evident in the third period he was going for it, twice failing on good scoring opportunities early in the period.
Pittsburgh's other goal, by rookie Mark Letestu 47 seconds in, was the first of his NHL career. Later in the first, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek scored 48 seconds apart to give Buffalo the lead and Tim Kennedy made it 3-1 at 7:32 of the second. Vanek had a goal and an assist.