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Neal, Malkin lead Pens to ninth straight win

Mar 12, 2012 - 2:18 AM
Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - James Neal scored a goal and assisted on two others, lifting the surging Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-2 victory over the Boston Bruins at Consol Energy Center.

Evgeni Malkin posted three assists for Pittsburgh, which notched its ninth straight win and closed to within four points of the Atlantic Division- leading New York Rangers, who topped the New York Islanders in overtime on Sunday night.

Arron Asham, Matt Niskanen, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis also scored for the Penguins, while Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves in the victory. Pittsburgh again played without superstar Sidney Crosby, who is close to returning from another concussion/neck injury after being cleared for contact earlier this week.

"Every day, a different line is stepping up," said Fleury. "We've been finding ways to win games and hopefully we can keep it up."

David Krejci netted both goals for Boston, which was coming off a 4-3 loss to Washington on Saturday and has dropped four of its last six games. The Bruins still lead idle Ottawa by two points in the Northeast Division.

Tim Thomas started in net for the Bruins, but was pulled after yielding three goals on 10 shots in the first period. Marty Turco, just signed by Boston on March 5 after an injury to Tuukka Rask, saw his first action and turned aside 20 shots over the final 40 minutes.

The Penguins opened the scoring just 3:24 into the contest when Asham gathered a deflected point blast from Ben Lovejoy and swept a shot from the right circle past Thomas for his fourth goal.

Niskanen made it 2-0 just under four minutes later with a blast from the right point through a screen created by Neal, who first initiated the scoring play with a hit along the boards to free up the puck for Malkin.

Neal then sent Pittsburgh to the first intermission with a three-goal cushion. He cashed in a power play late in the period with his 31st goal, taking a right point pass from Malkin and beating Thomas from the low left circle to halt a nine-game goal drought.

"It's disappointing to have to did ourselves out of a hole again," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "But I think our guys battled hard."

The Bruins got one back just under two minutes into the middle stanza. Krejci was sprung on a breakaway and lifted a shot over Fleury's glove.

The Penguins, though, answered at the 4:27 mark when Neal made a perfect feed from the left circle to the right side of the crease for an unchecked Kunitz, who easily slammed the puck into the empty side of the cage for his 20th goal.

Moments after Turco made a sprawling save with his left skate in midair, Krejci was the beneficiary of a Milan Lucic pass from behind the net. He beat a Pittsburgh defender down the slot and converted the feed for his 20th of the season midway through the second, again pulling Boston within two.

Fleury kept the Bruins off the board in the third with 13 saves and Dupuis iced it with his 18th goal, scoring on a breakaway with 3:53 remaining.

Game Notes

Pittsburgh's nine-game winning streak is the second-longest in the NHL this season, behind only a 10-game stretch by Boston in November...Malkin, who surpassed Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (82) for the lead in the scoring race with 84 points, notched his 500th career point with an assist on Niskanen's goal, while Neal picked up his 200th career point on the same goal...Neal hadn't scored a goal since February 18 against Philadelphia...Krejci has seven goals in his last seven games and reached 20 in a season for the first time since a career-best 22-goal campaign in 2008-09...Kunitz reached 20 goals for the second straight year...Jordan Staal set up Dupuis' goal in the third and now has an eight-game point streak, posting three goals and eight assists in that span...Lucic extended his point streak to seven games. He has two goals and seven assists during the run.