Penguins run win streak to 7

John Perrotto, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby is having a wonderful time as Christmas approaches and so are the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The superstar center had a goal and two assists Saturday as the Penguins opened a three-goal lead before hanging on for a 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames that ran their winning streak to seven games.
Crosby ran his point streak to 10 games, the sixth time in his career he has reached double digits. He helped the Penguins to their 10th win in a row at Consol Energy Center, the longest home winning streak in the NHL this season.
"Anytime you're winning, the mood is good in the (locker) room," Crosby said. "We're working hard, playing with a lot of confidence and downplaying some of the bad stuff that's been happening lately."
The Penguins were missing five of their top defenseman Saturday because of injuries and suspensions, while center Evgeni Malkin sat out his fourth straight game.
Yet it hasn't slowed down Pittsburgh, which is pulling away in the Metropolitan Division standings.
"I don't sense any pressure on this group," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have guys who have won a lot of hockey games in this league and the guys coming up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have won a lot of games in the AHL.
"They've all dealt with (difficult) situations in the past."
Left winger James Neal added a goal and an assist, and left wingers Pascal Dupuis and Harry Zolneirczyk also scored for Pittsburgh (27-10-1). Left winger Chris Kunitz had two assists.
The Penguins are 22-2-0 when scoring first this season. They have trailed for only 3:12 in the last nine games.
"It's always nice to have a little cushion in case you get a bad bounce," said Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 27 saves as his team was outshot, 30-23.
Calgary (13-17-6) got goals from centers Paul Byron, Mike Cammalleri and Jiri Hudler. The Flames finished a five-game trip with a 1-2-2 record.
Left winger Curtis Glencross and defensive Kris Russell of the Flames sustained lower-body injuries and did not return. Glencross' injury appeared to be more serious, as he hit the boards hard during the first period and fell at an awkward angle.
"They're two great leaders, but at the same time there is nothing we can do about injuries," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "Unfortunately, they are part of our game."
Flames goaltender Karri Ramo stopped only 19-of-23 shots after Calgary had given up only 18 goals in its previous 10 games.
The Penguins opened the scoring with two goals in the span of 1:19 midway through the first period.
Dupuis backhanded a rebound from the crease at 10:26 for his seventh goal of the season. Zolnierczyk then tipped in a slapshot by defenseman Robert Bortuzzo for his first goal to make it 2-0.
Dupuis has three goals and three assists during the Penguins' winning streak.
Byron got the Flames on the board at 6:58 of the second period when his slap shot hit Fleury's right skate and bounced into the net for his second goal.
Crosby got the goal back for the Penguins at 14:44, when he beat Ramo high to the glove side with slapshot on a breakaway for his 20th. The Penguins then made it 4-1 at 18:55 when Neal scored his 11th goal by tipping in a slapshot by defenseman Matt Niskanen.
The Penguins then had to hang on.
The Flames scored only 19 seconds later to make it a two-goal game on Cammalleri's 11th goal of the season on a wrist shot. They then got within 4-3 at 2:35 of the third period when Hudler converted a pretty pass from center Matt Stajan for his 10th goal.
"We never quit," Hartley said. "We kept going at the net. With a little luck maybe we could have got the tying goal. It's a tough loss to swallow."
NOTES: Penguins backup G Jeff Zatkoff signed a two-year extension that keeps him under contract through the 2015-16 season. The 26-year-old rookie is 6-2-0 with a 2.46 goals-against average in eight games this season. ... Flames C Blair Jones, LW TJ Galiardi and D Christopher Breen were healthy scratches. ... Scratched for the Penguins along with C Evgeni Malkin (left knee) were D Deryk Engelland (suspension) and C Brian Gibbons. ... The Penguins have lost 200 man-games to injury this season, the most in the Eastern Conference, but none of the three players on their top line -- C Sidney Crosby, F Pascal Dupuis and F Chris Kunitz -- have missed a game. ... Flames D Kris Russell played the 400th NHL game of his career. ... Calgary hosts the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, while Pittsburgh visits the Carolina Hurricanes.