Crosby not only contributor to Penguins' streak

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Sidney Crosby has scored 14 goals in the Penguins' past 11 games.

He has assisted on eight others in that stretch.

That mean's he has been averaging two points per game since getting a goal in a 3-1 victory Nov. 17 against Vancouver at Consol Energy Center.

If Crosby, who actually owns a 17-game points streak, stays this hot for much longer, he might spontaneously combust.

Clearly, his work -- not just all those points, but his defensive play and faceoff success and overall excellence -- has been the driving force behind the 11-0 run the Penguins will take into their game Saturday night against Buffalo at HSBC Arena.

"Obviously, Sid's playing well," right winger Tyler Kennedy said Thursday. "Sid's helping us out a lot."

To put Crosby's offensive rampage in perspective, consider that during this winning streak, his teammates have combined for 23 goals, which is just nine more than Crosby.

What's more, he has scored or assisted on 22 of the 37 goals they've scored during regulation in those 11 games. That means he has been involved directly in 59 percent of their offense over that stretch.

Clearly, it would be nearly impossible to overstate the contribution he has made to the Penguins' success of late.

"That's as well as any player I've played with on any team has played," right winger Pascal Dupuis said. "It's not only the point streak. He's been playing unbelievably, on both sides of the puck."

At the same time, it would be folly to ignore the reality that this streak has not been a one-man production, that Crosby's teammates have chipped in with more than moral support the past few weeks.

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, for example, is on the best roll of his career. He has been in goal for 10 of the 11 victories, recording a .945 save percentage.

Thirteen of Crosby's teammates have scored at least one goal during the streak, and nine have at least two.

And while the power play has failed to generate a goal in four of the past five games and the penalty-killers have allowed one in each of the past four, the Penguins' special teams have come through with some timely work.

"Everyone's playing well," Kennedy said. "Everyone's helping out and doing the right things to win hockey games."

The pivotal point in the Penguins' season, on several levels, came in the wake of a 7-4 loss Nov. 10 to Boston at Consol Energy Center, when they were scorched for five unanswered goals in the third period.

That was the Penguins' 16th game. When it was over, they owned a 7-8-1 record and were giving up an average of 2.9 goals per game.

In the 14 games since, the Penguins are 13-0-1, and allowing an average of 1.77 goals per game. One guy, no matter how gifted and motivated, couldn't make that much of a difference singlehandedly.

"We knew that, in those first 15 or 16 games, we weren't playing up to expectations," left winger Chris Kunitz said. "We were leaving our goalies out to dry. Ever since the turnaround [began], we've been a lot better in our defensive zone."

The Penguins' early season struggles -- "At the beginning of the year, it was hard to try to get a win," Kennedy said -- might be working to their benefit now. Surviving that adversity has caused them not to take success for granted nor to sit back and watch Crosby try to win games on his own.

"With the way he's scoring right now, you could see how it might happen," defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "But, with the way we're playing, I don't think so."

Crosby fleshed out a two-goal effort during a 5-2 victory against Toronto Wednesday by blocking two shots and going 19-7 on faceoffs. A pretty impressive, all-around performance.

But it can't be overlooked that defenseman Zbynek Michalek blocked five shots. That Mark Letestu, in addition to scoring two goals, was 9-1 on draws. That Arron Asham was credited with four hits.

"Everybody's working hard," forward Max Talbot said. "We're still doing the right things, and everybody's pulling in the right direction."

And they're being led that way by Crosby, who dominates nearly every time he goes over the boards.

"We know he's going to be there, night after night," Dupuis said. "I think he wants that pressure. You can see that he handles it pretty well."

For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at . Dave Molinari: .


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