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Crosby's OT winner completes Pens' comeback over Isles

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Sidney Crosby's teammates and coaches are conditioned to believe he can accomplish anything on the ice. But the Pittsburgh Penguins' superstar center is going to have a tough time topping what he did Tuesday night.

Crosby forced overtime with a power-play goal in the third period before his sensational goal with 1:16 left in overtime capped a comeback by the Penguins and lifted them to a 3-2 win over the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.

"It's crazy," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up two goals in the first period but blanked New York the rest of the way on his way to racking up 21 saves. "I've been with him a long time now and he still amazes me in practices, in games (with) what he pulls off."

With the two teams in the midst of a spirited overtime session, Crosby stole the puck in the neutral zone and raced toward Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson. Left winger Thomas Vanek was in pursuit of Crosby, who was surrounded by defensemen Calvin De Haan and Travis Hamonic, both of whom were trying to jab the puck loose.

Crosby briefly lost control of the puck on the edge of the goalmouth, but got it back and poked it past Nilsson for the game-winner.

"I don't look for superlatives, I just watch him play," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said with a grin. "Certainly, that's a remarkable one. The work ethic to track the turnover and bringing that back toward the net -- I don't think it was a huge surprise to see it somehow find its way into the net."

Crosby said he wanted to set up a play by waiting for left winger James Neal to come out of the neutral zone, but decided to take a shot at net once Neal remained behind him.

"I had a lot of time to kind of wind it up and their 'D' was pretty flat-footed because they had to gap it up," Crosby said. "So I had to get through there and get a shot off."

Crosby's two goals -- his 14th and 15th of the season -- increased his NHL-leading point total to 38 and helped the Penguins (19-9-1) win their fourth in a row and move into first place overall in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of idle Boston.

Pittsburgh appeared headed for the upset loss when the Islanders dictated play in the first period and took a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by right winger Kyle Okposo.

The Penguins squandered a 5-on-3 opportunity spanning the end of the first period and the beginning of the second period, but pulled within one in the final minute of the second period on Neal's power-play goal.

A high sticking call on Islanders defenseman Aaron Ness 6:42 into the third gave the Penguins another power play, but the Islanders earned a penalty shot just 11 seconds later when center Frans Nielsen was hooked from behind by defenseman Kris Letang.

Fleury stopped Nielsen -- the first time Nielsen has missed a penalty shot in three career attempts -- and Crosby tied the game 1:07 later when he fired a slap shot past Nilsson.

"The penalty shot is obviously a huge point in the game -- 3-1 vs. 2-1 -- and 'Flower' came up with a big save," Bylsma said. "I think our team wanted to answer that save (with a goal)."

The loss was doubly familiar for the Islanders, who have given up eight power-play goals in their last nine games against the Penguins dating back to last spring's Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Pittsburgh collected multiple power-play goals three times in those nine games.

"For whatever reason, against this team, our penalty kill, we just couldn't stop them," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. "Again, they get two tonight to get right back in the game. It can't happen."

The Islanders (8-15-5) have lost seven in a row (0-5-2) and blew a third period lead for the second straight game. They squandered two-goal leads four times this season.

"At the end of the day, you try to get the best out of your players and you want you guys to work hard," Capuano said, "And they are working."

Nilsson made 31 saves for the Islanders.

NOTES: Doug Weight, the Islanders' assistant coach and assistant to general manager Garth Snow, and Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin were each inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. Weight and Guerin were teammates on the U.S. Olympic team in 1998, 2002 and 2006 and also played together with Edmonton, St. Louis and the Islanders. ... The Islanders scratched LW Eric Boulton, D Radek Martinek and C Brock Nelson. The Penguins scratched D Robert Bortuzzo and C Jayson Megna. All were healthy scratches. ... Injured Islanders D Brian Strait and G Evgeni Nabokov returned to practice Monday for the first time since they were hurt. Strait has been out since Oct. 22 with a back injury while Nabokov suffered a strained groin Nov. 16. ... G Anders Nilsson made consecutive starts for the Islanders for the first time in his career. ... In addition to being named the NHL's No. 1 star last week, Penguins C Evgeni Malkin was also selected the league's No. 2 star of the month in November. ... RW Chuck Kobasew practiced with the Penguins on Monday for the first time since he suffered an upper-body injury Oct. 28.o the penalty box for slashing with 23 seconds left.
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