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Thrashers continue on slump
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Matt Cooke, center, is shoved into Atlanta Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen, right, of Finland, by Thrashers defenseman Mathieu Schneider in the first quarter on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. - photo by By Gene Puskar

Thrashers at Devils

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: East Rutherford, N.J.

TV, radio: SportSouth (Charter channel 36); 680-AM

Web site:

PITTSBURGH Petr Sykora ended Pittsburgh’s seven-game drought without a power-play goal while scoring twice and Evgeni Malkin came out of a slump with three assists, leading the Penguins to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Tuesday night.

The Penguins, outscored 10-1 in their previous two games, also got captain Sidney Crosby’s first power-play goal in 26 games and ended a five-game losing streak. They had dropped five in a row at home, getting outscored 23-8 during a streak that included losses of 7-3 to Toronto and 6-1 to Florida.

Atlanta, last in the Eastern Conference, didn’t show much life outside of a couple of skirmishes involving Colby Armstrong.

The Thrashers lost their sixth in seven games. The Thrashers are 0-3 against the Penguins, with Crosby getting two goals and four assists.

Pittsburgh’s 0-for-33 power-play slump, its longest since an eight-game streak in December 2003, ended late in the first period when Sykora redirected Ryan Whitney’s pass from the right point after Malkin dug the puck out from behind the net. Whitney showed the Penguins’ relief by dropping his head back and looking upward.

Sykora made it 2-0 at 12:43 of the second when Malkin controlled the puck after winning a faceoff and carried it to the net, where Sykora put a backhander past Kari Lehtonen for his 15th goal.

Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer with 63 points but held without a goal for a career-long nine games, appeared to have scored slightly less than three minutes later with a slap shot from the right point on a power play. But Crosby’s stick ticked the puck as it flew into the net for his 16th goal but only his second in eight games — and only the 11th goal by Pittsburgh during that time.

The Penguins, two games away from winning the Stanley Cup last spring, hit the midpoint of their season with a 20-17-4 record aided by a combined 6-0 mark against the Thrashers and Islanders.

Ruslan Fedotenko tried giving his slumping team a lift a night after the Penguins lost 4-0 to the Rangers by dropping former teammate Armstrong with a single punch only 1:27 into the game. But even this didn’t work out — Fedotenko, normally not much of a fighter, injured his hand on the punch and did not return.

Armstrong, traded at the deadline last March in the Marian Hossa deal, also got into a brief shoving match with best friend Crosby, who had earlier drawn a double minor high-sticking penalty that put Atlanta on a four-minute power play less than five minutes into the game.

Atlanta didn’t score on three shots during the power play, and failed to get to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury until Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 14th goal — but only his third in 13 games — on a power play with 5:40 remaining. Fleury made 27 saves.

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