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Crosby closes in on 100 points in Penguins' win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- No player this young has had an NHL season
this good. Sidney Crosby looks determined to make his rookie year
even better, as the New York Rangers found out.

Crosby had a goal and three assists to close within three points
of becoming the youngest player to have a 100-point season in the
NHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins further stalled the Rangers' bid
to win their first division title since 1994 with a 5-3 victory
Thursday night.

"He's playing well and he's hungry," Penguins coach Michel
Therrien said of Crosby, who is surging with 17 points in seven
games.

The Rangers should have had plenty of motivation -- they stayed
three points ahead of the Flyers, who lost 4-1 to New Jersey, in an
Atlantic Division race that could be decided when the teams play
Saturday in Philadelphia.

But until they tried to rally from a 4-1 deficit in the third
period with two quick scores, the Rangers didn't look like a team
desperate to wrap up the division as they lost their third in a
row.

Maybe that's why coach Tom Renney held a team meeting after the
game.

"It's time to circle the wagons and explain to everyone we must
be better," Renney said. "I'm disappointed in what we have chosen
to do here in the last few games and I don't like that. There's a
lot at stake here."

Equally disappointed was NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr, who
got his team-record 54th goal midway through the first but didn't
do much else.

"We've had such a great year and we don't want to give it
away," Jagr said. "Why? It just happened. We're not happy with
the way we played. We have to play better in the playoffs and we
have two games to go to get us there."

The Penguins, last in the NHL overall standings, had won a
league-low 20 games and only 10 at home before rookie Colby
Armstrong had two goals and an assist and Sergei Gonchar continued
his strong late-season play with a goal and an assist.

Armstrong also set up Crosby's 38th goal to put the Penguins
ahead 2-1 early in the second. Gonchar scored his 11th on a power
play in the second and assisted on Michel Ouellet's 16th goal as
the Penguins avoided their first four-game losing streak to the
Rangers since 1997.

Crosby had two or more points for the eighth time in 10 games
and, with three games remaining, must average one per game to join
Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk as the only 18-year-olds to
score 100 points in an NHL season. He also would become the seventh
rookie, including Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, with 100 in a
season.

"But, to me, if I had 97 points or 93 after tonight, it's not a
big difference," Crosby said. "It would be nice to get that, but
we'll see what happens. I don't think my mindset will change after
tonight."

Hawerchuk had 103 points for the Winnipeg Jets in the 1982-83
season, when he was 100 days older than Crosby is now. Crosby was
the youngest to reach 90 points and now could become the youngest
to 100.

"He doesn't like to talk about it," said Armstrong, who is
Crosby's road roommate. "He wants to focus on playing. But it
would be a great accomplishment for an 18-year-old kid -- and, with
all the things we've been through this season, it's great we still
have something to shoot for."

Jagr's goal represented his league-high 122nd point and came
midway through the first to put the Rangers up 1-0. Jagr executed
an exceptional inside-out move to fool Marc-Andre Fleury while
skating in from the top of the right circle and beating the goalie
with a backhander. Fleury made 21 saves.

After that, the Penguins scored four consecutive goals.

"You can't underestimate anyone," Rangers goalie Kevin Weekes
said. "There's never a good time for a game like this but tonight
was a worse time than most."

Weekes started his sixth game in a row for injured rookie Henrik
Lundqvist (hip flexor).

Gonchar made it 3-1 later in the period with the first of
consecutive power-play goals for Pittsburgh, and Armstrong later
scored his 14th and 15th of the season, with Crosby assisting on
each.

Game notes
Crosby finished the season series, won by the Rangers 5-3,
with five goals and four assists. Jagr had seven goals and four
assists. ... Crosby confirmed he will play for Canada in the world
championships May 5-21 in Latvia. Crosby has said for weeks he
expected to play. ... Gonchar has five points in two games and 15
points in his last 10 games.