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Rare scorer Laraque sends Pens over Isles

Finally, the Penguins found a player other than Evgeni Malkin ready to make the most of Sidney Crosby's passing excellence.

By Georges, that player was Laraque.

Known around the league for his punching, Georges Laraque provided rare 5-on-5 punch for the Penguins in a 3-2 victory against the New York Islanders at Mellon Arena on Thursday.

Laraque's first goal in 40 games, dating to his pre-Pittsburgh days with Phoenix last season, helped the Penguins end a four-game losing skid. He whipped a shot past New York goaltender Rick DiPietro at 16:45 of the second period to break a 2-2 tie.

Though Laraque got the glory in the form of a winning tally, Crosby earned deserved praise for abusing New York defenseman Brendan Witt to set up the goal.

"I always go to the net, just to try creating space down low," Laraque said. "But with Sid, a great passer like that, anyone goes to the net."

Crosby recorded his 250th point in his 179th game. He has now recorded a point in a career-best 18 consecutive games, the longest streak in the NHL this season.

Chasing him in that department is Malkin, Crosby's linemate for long stretches of their first two seasons together.

Malkin assisted on a 4-on-4 goal by defenseman Sergei Gonchar and a 5-on-3 tally by right wing Petr Sykora, and stretched his scoring streak to 12 games.

Crosby and Malkin have combined to record 38 points over that span.

The Penguins have struggled to score 5-on-5 goals, with only 28 of their 49 prior to last night having come under that circumstance. The Penguins rated 16th in 5-on-5 scoring, and the result was a goal-per-game average of 0.66 less than their 3.88 from 2006-07.

Their three goals against the Islanders were their most in four games. They have scored three or more goals only twice in eight games this month, and have won both contests.

"We want to win games, but we want to win them the right way, too," Crosby said. "We gave ourselves a chance, and guys stepped up and made big plays.

"And our goaltender was great."

The Penguins improved to 8-10-1, thanks in no small part to Marc-Andre Fleury. He won for the first time in five appearances, dating to his shutout victory against the New York Rangers at Mellon Arena on Oct. 23. He even managed an assist on Gonchar's goal.

Fleury stopped 26 of 28 shots in what might have been a pivotal game for his young career.

"It has been a little tough lately," Fleury said. "It has been a while since I got a win, so I am happy everything went well."

Coach Michel Therrien altered his normal lineup and did not dress forward Mark Recchi and defenseman Darryl Sydor in favor of rookies Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang.

Therrien described the decision to sit two veteran leaders as "really difficult."

"The recipe lately was not working," Therrien said. "We called up some young players ... and you have got to put those guys on the ice."

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