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Staal scores winner, Malkin adds a pair as Pens down Flyers 5-3

Crosby had enough help from Evgeni Malkin and rest of the Penguins to keep them perfect against the worst team in the league.

Malkin scored twice, Jordan Staal got the go-ahead goal in the third period and Pittsburgh beat the Flyers 5-3 on Saturday for its sixth victory this season against its cross-state rival.

"I don't know. Part of it is just confidence," Staal said. "Once you get a couple going on them, you're more confident playing a team like that. I can't really say why we beat them every time."

At least this one was close, with the Flyers rallying from a two-goal deficit to tie the score, unlike some of the previous meetings. The Penguins have twice scored eight goals against the NHL-worst Flyers, and shut them out in the season opener.

"We try to make a stand against a team and they still found a way to win the game and we found a way to lose it," Flyers right wing Mike Knuble said. "We've got to make some sort of progress. We've got to win one of those for once."

Philadelphia held Crosby to one assist and got a goal from Peter Forsberg, but it still wasn't enough. With an Eagles playoff game only hours away, the surprisingly strong crowd got more enjoyment out of shouting "E-A-G-L-E-S!" for several stretches in this one. And why not? After all, the Flyers gave them little reason to cheer.

"We don't take that step forward," Knuble said. "All of us are struggling to find a reason why."

The Flyers showed a spark when Simon Gagne and Forsberg scored 1:24 apart in the second period to tie the score at 3. But Staal slipped one by Antero Niittymaki midway through the third for his 13th goal of the season, helping the Penguins snap a three-game losing streak.

Malkin had an assist on that one.

"I just jumped in. It was a picture-perfect pass," Staal said. "I just had to tap it in."

Maybe it's the kind of play the two can use in the NHL YoungStars game during all-star weekend. Staal and Ryan Whitney also were selected from the Penguins to represent the Eastern Conference.

Sergei Gonchar and Mark Recchi also scored for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid in goal with 15 saves.

Ryan Potulny scored his fourth goal for the Flyers, who lost their sixth straight. They have won only three games at home this season. The NBA's 76ers have just five wins at home, making for a dark winter inside the Wachovia Center.

Niittymaki made 34 saves and lost his 13th straight decision (0-12-1).

Potulny gave the Flyers an early 1-0 lead. But Gonchar tied it with a one-time slap shot from the slot and Malkin knocked in a rebound for his 21st goal and a 2-1 lead late in the first.

The rout appeared on again after Recchi made it 3-1 with a wrister from the right circle over Niittymaki's shoulder. Crosby had the assist on that one, giving him seven goals and nine assists against the Flyers this season.

"There's nothing special we do against them," Malkin said. "Maybe they're not having a good year. That's one of the reasons."

No maybe about it. No team in the league is within 10 points of the Flyers' league-worst 26 points.

Gagne tied it with his 21st goal and Forsberg redirected a shot for a power-play goal with 1:18 left in the second period that made it 3-all, but that couldn't keep the Flyers from dropping their eighth straight home game.

"It was one of our best home games, but I guess that doesn't say a whole lot, does it?" Forsberg said.

Malkin added an empty-netter in the final minute.

Notes: Flyers LW Ben Eager received a game misconduct in the first period. ... Gagne was named to the Eastern Conference all-star team.



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