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Malkin's hat trick leads Pens past Lightning 8-1

Pittsburgh Penguins' Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his short-handed goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. Pittsburgh Penguins' Jordan Staal (11) celebrates his short-handed goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
February 25, 2012
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PITTSBURGH—Evgeni Malkin had his ninth career hat trick, Jordan Staal added two goals and the Pittsburgh Penguins won for the fifth time in seven games by routing the Tampa Bay Lightning 8-1 Saturday.

Chris Kunitz, Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves for Pittsburgh, which has won eight of nine home games and leapfrogged the New Jersey Devils in the crowded middle of the Eastern Conference playoff-race pack.

Malkin added an assist, taking over the NHL scoring lead with Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, who had tied him with 11 points in his previous four games. Stamkos was held scoreless.

Teddy Purcell scored for the Lightning, who were beaten badly despite a 35-34 advantage in shots on goal. Desperate to climb back into playoff contention, Tampa Bay has lost two consecutive following a three-game winning streak.

Malkin had three goals in a game for the third time this season and second time in six weeks against the Lightning. Malkin has eight goals and 11 points in four games against Tampa Bay this season.

Saturday, he broke out after a dustup with Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, the 42 year old who had stymied the Penguins in a seven-game first-round playoff triumph last April.

Eight minutes into the second period and the Penguins already up 3-0, Roloson shoved Malkin to the ice with extended arms after he was fighting for position in front of the net. Malkin responded by throwing a punch back up at him as he lied with his back on the ice.

Staal scored his second of the game and 21st of the season 1:58 later, and Malkin made it 5-0 five minutes later, scoring on a poor-angle one-timed slap shot off a pass from Kunitz along the right-wing boards.

After he scored, Malkin scowled at Roloson, not breaking the stare until teammates arrived for the post-goal group hug.

Malkin's finest goal of the afternoon came 5:50 into the third when he stick-handled through three defenders before beating Roloson.

That elicited chants of "M-V-P" from the 239th consecutive sellout crowd in Pittsburgh. What happened with 6:18 to play caused many of those fans to throw their hats onto the ice. Malkin's 36th of the season -- second in the league only to Stamkos -- was a poke-in of a rebound of a James Neal shot while on the power play.

Pittsburgh scored three goals 3:31 apart late in the first period, and Fleury made several quality saves to preserve the lead until Malkin's outburst.

Cooke's goal was his fifth in his past 13 games and 12th for the season. Dupuis added his 14th at 19:12 of the third, with Staal earning an assist to give him his first three-point game of the season. Sullivan had the second assist, his third of the game.

NOTES: Malkin has 21 multipoint games this season. He has 77 points in 54 games. ... Tampa Bay RW Ryan Shannon (upper body injury) did not play and was termed day to day. ... The Penguins are 20-0-2 when leading after two periods. ... Kunitz has 10 points over his past seven games. ... Malkin and Sullivan have four-game point streaks. ... Staal's first goal came short-handed, Pittsburgh's ninth of the season and third in the past four games. ... Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik (upper-body) returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday's win against the New York Rangers. ... Stamkos has only three goals in 16 career games vs. the Penguins.

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