Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins did enough work early on that they could afford to coast and look ahead to a showdown with rival Washington.

Crosby matched the second-longest NHL scoring streak in 18 years at 22 games with his first-period goal and the Penguins beat the visiting Florida Panthers, 5-2, last night.

Crosby scored for the 28th time this season and 22nd time during the streak 7:44 into the game, giving the Penguins a 2-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"The last few games we have done a pretty good job of starting well and creating a lot of pressure and generating a lot of shots early," said Crosby, who scored on a slap shot that beat Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun to the far side.

"But the last couple periods of this one weren't our greatest. We had the lead but we probably could have done a better job- I think partly mainly because we're thinking about tomorrow," said Crosby, who leads the NHL in scoring with 58 points (28 goals, 30 assists).

The Penguins came out strong yesterday with the game today at Washington - a preview of the Winter Classic to be played at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field on Jan. 1 - looming.

Pittsburgh took a 3-1 lead by taking 14 shots over the game's first 11 minutes, chasing Vokoun. The Penguins took a 4-1 lead on Ben Lovejoy's first career goal 6:19 into the second but were outshot 29-17 over the final two periods.

"We made it a lot closer than we needed it to be," Crosby said. "Partly because, I think, knowing that we play tomorrow night. I'm sure guys might have been secretly trying to save a little bit."

Crosby's streak matched Dany Heatley's in 2005 as the longest since the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. Mats Sundin of the Quebec Nordiques had points in 30 consecutive games during the 1992-93 season.

"The game was over in the first 10 minutes," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "They're a great team and obviously Crosby is a great player. I'm just disappointed we didn't give them more of a game."

In other games:

* At Uniondale, N.Y., John Tavares scored 3:23 into overtime for the Islanders, who snapped the Tampa Bay Lightning's four-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory.

* At Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg's second goal of the game at 2:59 of overtime gave the Red Wings a 5-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks.

* At Chicago, Jack Skille scored two goals, rookie Corey Crawford made 24 saves and the Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-1, for their third straight win.


* Toronto Maple Leafs fan Joseph Robb was charged with criminal mischief and barred from the arena for throwing waffles on the ice at the Air Canada Centre during a Leafs game to protest the team's poor performance.