Penguins halt Thrashers' win streak with Sidney Crosby hat trick

PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby single-handedly put an end to the Thrashers' win streak.

The white-hot Penguins got a hat trick from Crosby in a 3-2 victory over the red-hot Thrashers on Thursday. The Penguins won for the eighth consecutive time and are unbeaten in their past 11 games. The Thrashers had their franchise-tying six-game win streak snapped.

It was Crosby’s second hat trick in the past three games, to the delight of a sellout crowd of 18,223 at Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh (17-8-2, 36 points) also got a hat trick from Evgeni Malkin, which included an empty-netter, in their 4-2 win over the Thrashers on Nov. 13.

“Overall, I think the effort was there,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. “We challenged them. In the two games we’ve played them, a couple of their big guys came up with big nights. That’s the way it is. We have to beat them with a team game and team speed and an overall team effort. Tonight, we just had enough letdowns. We gave them those chances.”

The Thrashers (13-10-3, 29 points) allowed nearly as many goals Thursday (three) as they had during the six-game win streak (five).

Crosby scored his second and third goals in the second period as the Penguins opened a two-goal lead. Just 4:24 in the period, Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien got caught deep in the offensive zone when he fanned on a shot. The Penguins’ Arron Asham corralled the puck and made a long pass up-ice to Crosby, who was all alone past the center line. He skated in on Ondrej Pavelec and slid a backhander through the goaltender’s five-hole for a 2-1 lead.

“They are a quick-transition team, and they are not afraid to leave someone up in the neutral zone,” said Byfuglien, who had his six-game point streak snapped. “Can’t get a hold of every one.”

Crosby gave the Penguins a two-goal lead less than six minutes later when he tipped a Brooks Orpik point shot past Pavelec for his 21st goal.

Pavelec stopped 25 of 28 shots as he suffered his first loss in seven games.

The Thrashers scored first, but what else is new? The league’s No. 3 power-play converted 6:21 into the game when Bryan Little pounced on a loose puck in the crease. With Malkin in the penalty box for tripping, Johnny Oduya slid a pass to Anthony Stewart. The forward loaded up and blasted a shot that hit Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s stick and pad and then trickled through the crease. Little scored his fifth of the season. The Thrashers have scored first in 11 of the past 13 games, all in the first period.

The Penguins, with the No. 1 penalty-kill unit in the NHL, had killed 32 consecutive power plays over the past nine games.

Crosby extended his point streak to 14 games, with 29 points (15 goals, 14 assists). In 20 career games against the Thrashers, Crosby has 11 goals and 31 points.

“There are times when you are going to get beat,” defenseman Ron Hainsey said. “You can have everybody in position and have everyone there and get beat. We chased them pretty good in the third [period], but didn’t get the chances we needed. Great work ethic. Great effort. Just a few little plays that they were able to beat us with.”

Nik Antropov scored his seventh goal of the season with 1:26 left in the second period to make it a one-goal game. He snapped a wrist shot from the left circle on a pass from Niclas Bergfors.

“I think we all feel that way,” Ramsay said when asked if the Thrashers were getting close to the NHL’s top teams. “I just went and talked to them. They have to accept the challenge. They have to want to be that team. We have played well against good teams but, obviously, playing well is one thing, winning is better.

"We’ve got to continue to understand that if we want to continue to challenge at the top, if we want to be respected as one of those top teams, then we have to play 60 minutes and can’t have too many lulls against teams like this.”