Crosby helps Penguins secure playoff berth

TAMPA, Florida (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins looked like a
playoff team for the first two periods. That wasn’t the case
during the third.

Sidney Crosby scored twice in a 64-second span midway through
second period to help the Penguins clinch a playoff berth with a
6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

“I think we’re all allowed to smile tonight,” Penguins interim
coach Dan Bylsma said.

Crosby (101) joined teammate Evgeni Malkin (NHL-leading 110),
who had two assists, in reaching the 100-point mark this season.
It is the first time two Pittsburgh players have reached 100
points during the same season since Mario Lemieux (161) and
Jaromir Jagr (149) in the 1995-96 season.

Ruslan Fedotenko, Matt Cooke, Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal also
scored for the Penguins, who are 16-3-4 under Bylsma. They are
sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Jeff Halpern scored twice, and Martin St. Louis and Paul
Szczechura also had third-period goals as Tampa Bay nearly
erased a four-goal deficit. The Lightning have lost seven in a
row and 10 of 11.

“We got away from our game and I think we realized pretty
quickly no matter who we play against, if we’re not playing the
right way, we can be beat pretty easily,” said Crosby, who was
on the ice for all four Tampa Bay goals and wound up minus-4 for
the game. “I think we let up. We had a few big mistakes.”

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Crosby made it 2-0 midway of the second period before making it
a three-goal game during a breakaway 1:04 later. Both came
during a power play.

Fedotenko put the Penguins up 1-0 on a backhander from the slot
five minutes into the second period. Cooke scored early in the

A short-handed goal by Halpern, St. Louis’ 30th of the season
and an in-close effort from Szczechura cut the Tampa Bay deficit
to 4-3 with 10:17 left in regulation. The Lightning earlier
failed to score on a pair of extended 5-on-3 power plays.

Sykora’s 300th career goal, coming on a rebound, gave Pittsburgh
a 5-3 advantage two minutes after Szczechura’s goal. It appeared
that Fedotenko made contact with Lightning goalie Karri Ramo
right before the goal, but Tampa Bay interim coach Rick
Tocchet’s argument did not sway the officials.

“The ref blew it. Plain and simple,” Tocchet said. “We battled
hard. We just needed a fighting chance there.”

After Halpern scored with 40.6 seconds left, Staal picked up an
empty-netter with 12.5 seconds to go.

Tampa Bay left wing Ryan Malone left with a broken right hand
and will miss the final two games of the season. Acquired in an
offseason trade with Pittsburgh, Malone finishes the season with
26 goals and 45 points.