<
>

Crosby has first hat trick, Malkin stays hot as Pens roll

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Sidney Crosby gave the crabby Philadelphia
fans another athlete to jeer.

Crosby started hearing them in pregame warmups. They only got
louder and more voracious with each goal.

All three of them.

Crosby had his first career hat trick, Maxime Talbot scored two
goals and 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 simply sensational 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 1. 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 defenseman Denis Gauthier and scoring to make it
3-1.

Recchi and Moore both scored in the third.

Game 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.