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Crosby scores hat trick to lead surging Penguins over slumping Flyers

Crosby started hearing them in pre-game warm-ups. They only got louder and more voracious with each goal.

All three of them.

Crosby had his first career hat trick and Maxime Talbot scored two goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 8-2 Saturday night for their fourth straight win.

"It's special. It's always nice, first time anything in the NHL," Crosby said. "You never try to think about it too much, but it's always a nice milestone to have to get your first hat trick."

Evgeni Malkin, Mark Recchi and Dominic Moore also scored goals for Pittsburgh. Marc-Andre Fleury was strong in goal, recording 31 saves to help the Penguins extend their longest winning streak in more than two years. It's their first four-game winning streak since March 6-11, 2004.

After an emotional shootout win over Atlanta on Thursday, the Flyers reverted to the same woeful ways that got Ken Hitchcock fired this week. John Stevens lost for the first time as an NHL coach and Philadelphia dropped to an Atlantic Division-worst 2-7-1.

Mike Knuble and Stefan Ruzicka scored for the Flyers.

Flyers chairman Ed Snider said he knew he had to fire Hitchcock after a 9-1 loss at Buffalo. The Flyers saved this blowout for the grumpy home crowd.

Philadelphia's locker room was closed for nearly 20 minutes after the game for a team meeting.

"Bad loss. We fell apart again. This can't happen again," team captain Peter Forsberg said, rubbing his hands over his face.

Of course, Pittsburgh's new generation of stars had plenty do with the lopsided score.

Crosby added another first to his growing list of achievements, scoring once in the first and twice in the second for his first three-goal effort in 90 career games.

His first goal was the sweetest and tied it at one. Streaking down the right side, he made a sharp cross-ice pass to Ryan Whitney, who quickly fed the puck back to Crosby and he knocked it past Antero Niittymaki.

Crosby made it a rout in the second, putting in a rebound only 18 seconds after Talbot scored his second goal to make it 5-1.

Crosby's second goal also knocked Niittymaki out of the game, after stopping only five of nine shots. The Penguins scored on their first two shots of the game.

Robert Esche, who was in the net for every goal in that 9-1 loss to the Sabres, didn't fare much better. Crosby swiped the puck away from Derian Hatcher and scored his sixth goal of the season.

"We know it's early, but we've worked for it hard," Crosby said. "We don't want to look after nine games and think we're done improving. We have to make sure we keep progressing and keep getting better."

Malkin, who missed the Penguins' first four games with a dislocated left shoulder, scored in his fifth straight game when the puck banged off Esche's pads and trickled through his legs for a power-play goal and a 6-1 lead.

"He's been a good rookie so far," coach Michel Therrien said. "Right now, he seems to be having pretty good chemistry with Crosby out there. He's one of those special players."

That early-game Flyers lead was long forgotten by then.

"We have to take ownership of this situation," Stevens said. "It seems like we're sitting idle waiting for someone next to us to make a difference. We all have to take responsibility."

The Penguins took the lead for good midway through the first when bumbling Flyers teammates Forsberg and Simon Gagne collided on the blue line, jarring the puck loose. Talbot grabbed the loose puck, whizzed through the neutral zone and knocked it past Niittymaki for an uncontested short-handed goal.

Talbot's second goal early in the second period was nearly as easy, backing down defenceman Denis Gauthier and scoring to make it 3-1.

Recchi and Moore both scored in the third.

Notes: At least the Flyers were able to take their frustration out on the Penguins with their fists instead of their sticks. The game had several brief stoppages for fighting, including Flyers LW Ben Eager getting a 10 minute game-misconduct penalty. ... Talbot was recalled earlier this week. ... Fleury started for the ninth straight game.


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