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Crosby's hat trick leads Penguins to sixth straight win

Mario Lemieux used to do this kind of thing.

He would turn different kinds of goals into a hat trick and, after a Penguins victory, there would be this feeling that a performance stellar enough to be considered defining for any other player was just another day at the office.

Sidney Crosby went to work Saturday at Consol Energy Center.

His sixth NHL hat trick came on goals scored at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded into an empty net — all after he was denied a penalty-shot goal by a great glove save from Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff.

Still, neither Crosby nor his teammates seemed awe-struck after the 4-1 win, which also included winger Arron Asham's third goal and at least 40 shots for a second straight contest. Ten of those came off the stick of Crosby, who pushed his season goal total to 18 and career ledger to 201.

"Outstanding — as we've come to expect from him," winger Craig Adams said.

A year ago today, Crosby scored a hat trick against the New York Rangers. Including that one, he has 57 goals in his past 79 regular-season games — a run that, if maintained, would give him 276 goals by his 500th game after he notched 132 in his first 290.

Barring a significant injury, Crosby will play that game around New Year's Day 2012. He will be 24 — about eight months from the start of his prime. Flames defenseman Mark Giordano could not think of a way for his or any team to stop Crosby between now and then — and maybe over the next decade.

"If there is one, no one has really figured it out yet," he said. "He seems to find those spots. I thought our game plan was to play him hard, and we were playing him hard. He's one of those guys who, when he gets a chance, he'll make it count. He's the best player in the game for a reason, and he's tough to play against."

The Penguins are becoming a tough team to play against, having allowed only 15 goals during an 8-0-1 march to a record of 15-8-2. Backup goalie Brent Johnson, in his first appearance since the Penguins' last regular loss Nov. 10, stopped 30 shots to bring them within two points of Atlantic Division leader Philadelphia, which also is 25 games into the season after a shootout loss at New Jersey.

Johnson, 7-2-1 with a .931 save percentage, has teamed with resurgent No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Penguins a sixth-ranked mark in goals-against average. They also own the NHL's best penalty kill, which has not allowed a goal on 28 consecutive opportunities in nine games after denying Calgary on four chances.

"A lot of it is blocking shots, sticks in passing lanes — just good, solid defensive-zone coverage," Adams said. "And I think you could say our goaltending has been equally outstanding. I don't think there is probably a team in the league who's had better goaltending between two guys."

Only one team in this league can claim as its own Lemieux and Crosby — captains of Stanley Cup champions, winners of scoring titles and MVPs.

Lemieux finished with 690 goals in 915 games. At the rate he has scored in the past 365 days, Crosby's 690th could come in eight years.

He would be 32, with about a year remaining in his prime.

Additional Information:

Sid the shooter

Sidney Crosby had his sixth NHL hat trick Saturday in the Penguins' 4-1 win over Calgary. His regular-season goals and shots since he recorded a hat trick against the New York Rangers at home Nov. 28, 2009:

Before : 240 games, 144 goals, 1,032 shots, 14.0 shooting percentage

Since : 79, 57, 302, 18.9

Source: NHL.com

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