NHL: Sidney Crosby sparks Penguins' 5-3 win over Sabres

By John Wawrow

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 30 2012 9:40 p.m. MDT

Pittsburgh Penguins' Steve Sullivan (26) celebrates his goal with teammates Sidney Crosby (87) and Pascal Dupuis (9) on Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y., Friday, March 30, 2012. The Penguins won 5-3.

David Duprey, Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A swollen nose couldn't stop Sidney Crosby from enjoying a four-point night. And neither could Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres.

"Not really getting much air through there right now," Crosby said Friday, referring to the cut he wore on the left side of his nose after being struck by a puck a night earlier on Long Island. "But other than that, it's pretty good."

So's he.

In a season in which lingering concussion questions have hung over the Pittsburgh star, Sid The Kid provided a potent response in showing that he's in fact back by scoring a goal and adding three assists in the Penguins' 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

It was Crosby's third four-point night in 18 games this season, and it came on the heels of a two-game points drought in which the Penguins dropped consecutive games to the New York Islanders.

"He's the greatest thing I've ever seen," Penguins goalie Brent Johnson said. "Coming back the way he has is just fantastic. He's priceless."

Crosby not only helped right the Penguins' mini-slump after losing three of the past four, but also put the brakes on Buffalo's late-season surge.

The Sabres (38-30-10) had a five-game winning streak snapped, and dropped into ninth place, behind the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings. Both teams have four games left and 86 points, but the Capitals hold the tiebreaker edge.

The Sabres' loss also allowed the idle Boston Bruins to clinch a playoff berth.

"We won't beat this thing to death," Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold said. "There's a simple formula, we just move forward. We know we can play better."

Thomas Vanek, Tyler Ennis and Jordan Leopold scored for the Sabres, who dropped to 14-3-4 in their past 21, and lost for the first time in regulation in 10 games (7-1-2).

The Sabres squandered a golden opportunity to at least earn a point in the final 2:21, when Evgeni Malkin was penalized for delay of game after his clearing attempt sailed into the stands.

Vanek had two solid chances in front in the final 25 seconds, only to be turned away before Jordan Staal sealed the win by scoring into an empty net.

"You got to put it behind you," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said, already looking ahead to the game at Toronto on Saturday.

Steve Sullivan had a goal and two assists, and Pascal Dupuis set up two to extend his points streak to an NHL season-best 13 games, in which he has nine goals and eight assists. Malkin added a goal and assist in helping Pittsburgh (48-24-6) move four points ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia in the East.

"It's not as easy as just having one game and thinking you're there, it's a process," Crosby said. "You just try to take everything in stride, whether you have a good one or a bad one and try to get better."

Crosby became the NHL's seventh youngest player to reach the 600-point plateau, and he did it in the seventh-fewest games. Crosby now has 220 goals and 381 assists in 430 career games. At 24 years, 236 days, Crosby is the youngest player to hit the mark since Pierre Turgeon did it with the Islanders in 1994.

Crosby had a hand in all four goals in a game the Penguins never trailed, and built a 4-2 lead on Sullivan's tip in goal in front with 4:54 left in the second period.

After getting the secondary assist on Malkin's game-opening power-play goal 3:50 in, Crosby scored some 10 minutes later by sweeping a puck in through Ryan Miller's legs while parked to the right of the net.

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