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Penguins victorious in Crosby's return

Nov 29, 2006 - 2:52 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Sidney Crosby's return paid immediate dividends for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby had two assists and rookie Chris Thorburn scored the game-winner early in the third period as the Penguins snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders.

Colby Armstrong netted his first two goals of the season and Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves for Pittsburgh, which lost all three games Crosby missed with a strained groin.

"To win a hockey game, sometimes you need breaks," Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien said. "Lately we haven't had any breaks. Tonight we got the breaks and we ended up winning the hockey game. I don't think that it was our best game, but we found a way to win and this was a must-win game for us."

Crosby's club certainly got a break on the game-winning goal.

Thorburn scored 36 seconds into the third period when he carried the puck down the right boards and behind the net. He fired a wrist shot that hit off the left skate of goaltender Rick DiPietro and bounced into the net.

"I was able to get around the D and I was thinking pass the whole time," Thorburn said. "I just ran out of room and I just tried to dump it out in front and I was fortunate enough to get the back of (DiPietro's) blade and it bounced in for me."

The 19-year-old Crosby assisted on both of Armstrong's goals as the Penguins snapped the Islanders' three-game winning streak.

"(Crosby's) a super player. Every time he has the puck, you're on your toes," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "He finds people in the open. Tonight he was a big difference.

Crosby was cautiously optimistic after the game about the condition of his groin.

"It feels pretty good. I was able to go a full game, so it feels good," Crosby said. "We'll see tomorrow."

After Armstrong tallied 1:34 into the game, the Islanders - playing without injured leading scorer Alexei Yashin - tied the score on Viktor Kozlov's fifth goal of the season with 1:18 left in the first period.

Arron Asham gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead at 4:45 of the second before Armstrong tied it about seven minutes later.

"It was kind of a bad angle and I saw Sid got it and I didn't know what was going to happen," Armstrong said. "He just kind of threw it across the crease and I think it hit DiPietro's toe and it bounced right out front to the open area. I just swatted at it and got it before their D-man sticked it. So, it was just one of those lucky bounces.

"I've been waiting a while for (a game like this). Our guys have been saying, 'Shoot the puck, shoot the puck.' And I've been working in practice on some things and it's good to finally have the puck bounce for me. It's a pretty good feeling."

Fleury stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third period, including two excellent scoring chances by Andy Hilbert and another by Richard Park.

"They were around (the net) a lot, Fleury said. "I had a good sweat. They hit the post and it almost went in a couple of times and they just kept coming and coming, but I thought our guys played good defense and cleared the puck away and played real well in our zone."

It was an extra special night for Fleury, who turned 22 and was honored with a bobblehead giveaway.

"They have a good team, it's always a good challenge and we're close in the standings, so it's always a good battle," Fleury said. "It was a great day to get a win at home, we had a great crowd, so it was great."

Yashin, who has 10 goals and 18 assists this season, will miss at least two weeks with a sprained right knee suffered in Saturday's 4-1 win over Washington.

"Any time you're missing your best player, your captain, your leader - he was playing great hockey for us - it's obviously a little bit of a setback for us," New York center Mike Sillinger said. "But I think the team responded well. You always want to have your best players in the lineup, but that's when other guys get a chance to raise their games."

DiPietro made 25 stops for New York.

"We just didn't get the breaks," Nolan said. "We started off a little bit slow, but I thought as the game went on, especially in the third period, we had numerous chances to put it in. Unfortunately, it didn't go in for us."

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