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Penguins rookie Malkin scores in third straight game

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Evgeni Malkin is already quite comfortable in
the NHL.

The highly touted Russian rookie scored for the third straight
game, leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-3 victory over the
Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

Malkin scored on a wrist shot midway through the third period to
put Pittsburgh ahead 4-2 and become the first player to score in
his first three NHL games since Jan Caloun did it for the San Jose
Sharks in 1995-96.

Malkin laughed when asked, through an interpreter, if he expects
to keep that streak intact for the duration of his career.

"I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "But I'm
going to try very hard every game and keep working hard."

Pittsburgh, which won its second straight, got two short-handed
goals -- one on a penalty shot -- from 18-year-old Jordan Staal,
their first-round draft pick in June. Michel Ouellet and Sergei
Gonchar scored the first two goals for Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre
Fleury stopped 36 shots.

However, it was Malkin who stole the spotlight again four days
after his sensational NHL debut.

The Penguins led 3-2 lead in the third period, with Columbus
having controlled most of the play for the previous 35 minutes.

They took control shortly after Sidney Crosby moved into the
Blue Jackets' zone with a power play about to expire and deftly
glided backward near the right dot to draw two penalty-killers
toward him. He then passed to Malkin, trailing the play, atop the
circle, and Malkin's first shot of the evening beat goalie Fredrik
Norrena low to the far post at 7:04.

"As soon as I crossed the blue line, I saw him," Crosby said
of Malkin. "It was just a matter of waiting for him to come over
and get open. He made a great shot. Quick and accurate."

Malkin expressed no surprise that Crosby, who has four assists
in his past two games, saw him coming.

"He's the best player," Malkin said. "I knew this pass was
coming."

He also knew, apparently, where to shoot on Norrena, who had
made three exceptional saves earlier in the period.

"I saw the move the goaltender made to Crosby and the opening
he left on the other side," Malkin said. "I shot it there."

After his goal, Malkin pointed toward his family -- father
Vladimir, mother Natalia and brother Denis -- in the crowd, watching
him in North America for the first time.

Gilbert Brule, Fredrik Modin and Nikolai Zherdev scored for
Columbus, which lost its third straight and fifth in seven games
this season.

"It's disappointing to lose, but I thought the effort was
there," coach Gerard Gallant said. "Pittsburgh did a good job
jamming the net and getting pucks to the crease, and they banged a
few home."

Norrena, a Finn making his NHL debut at age 32 after more than a
decade of professional hockey in Europe, stopped 29 of 34 shots.

"It was tough for him because of all the chances they had and
all the power plays," Gallant said.

Pittsburgh was 3 for 9 with the man-advantage.

"We were doing a lot of penalty-killing out there," winger
Jason Chimera said.

The game might have meant as much to Staal as it did for Malkin.
By NHL rules, Pittsburgh can use Staal for three more games before
deciding whether to return him to his Canadian junior team or keep
him in the NHL. The Penguins' first-round pick in the June draft
has scored three goals in six games, all short-handed.

"Obviously, this was good for me," Staal said. "I'm just
trying to play my best hockey."

Staal's first goal broke a 2-2 tie at 14:43 of the second
period. He overpowered Columbus defenseman Duvie Westcott just
outside the crease and used his long reach to rap a rebound behind
Norrena.

Staal's penalty shot came at 7:49 in unusual fashion. His
forehand attempt clanged hard off the left post, prompting referee
Marc Joannette to signal there was no goal. Before the puck
settled, though, it caromed off Norrena's leg pad and into the net.
A replay overturned the initial call, and a goal was awarded.

"It's not my day when a goal goes in like that," Norrena said.

Zherdev closed the scoring on a two-man advantage at 15:25 of
the third period.
Game notes
Pittsburgh did not record its fourth victory until its 15th
game last season. ... Blue Jackets center Sergei Fedorov missed a
sixth game to a strained shoulder, but he could return Monday. ...
It was the teams' first meeting in Pittsburgh since Dec. 13, 2003.