Sidney Crosby might be creating an intriguing subplot for the Winter Classic: He's riding one of the NHL's longest scoring streaks in the last 20 seasons.
Crosby scored twice during a four-point night to extend his scoring streak to 25 games, and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their final home game before the New Years Day's outdoor game by beating the Atlanta Thrashers 6-3 last night.
Crosby twice answered Thrashers goals by scoring in the first period, then set up Chris Kunitz's goal 9 seconds into the third period and another by Matt Cooke. Craig Adams also scored short-handed for Pittsburgh, which has won 16 of 19.
Crosby will try to extend his streak against the Islanders tonight, Pittsburgh's final game before the Classic. The only longer streak over the last two decades was Mats Sundin's 30-game run for Quebec in 1992-93.
"It's nice when you're going well and the puck's going in," Crosby said. "You just try to focus on your play, even when they're coming. But I don't think you think too much about that [streak]."
Crosby, the NHL scoring leader with 65 points, has 32 goals and 33 assists. During the streak, he has 26 goals and 23 assists, and he has at least one goal in five consecutive games. Wayne Gretzky (1990-91), Bryan Trottier (1981-82), Brett Hull (1991-92) and Bernie Nicholls (1984-85) also had 25-game streaks. The NHL record is Gretzky's 51-game run in 1983-84, during a more wide-open era in which he averaged three points per game. Mario Lemieux set the Penguins record with a 46-game streak in 1989-90.
"He's a special player; it doesn't take much for him to get on the board," Atlanta forward Andrew Ladd said of Crosby. "It seems he gets a little bit of space and then, bang, it's in the back of your net."
In other games:
* At Washington, Semyon Varlamov made 25 saves, and Alex Ovechkin was one of three goal scorers for the Capitals in a 3-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.
* At Toronto, Patrick Dwyer scored the winner with just over 5 minutes remaining, and Eric Staal had two goals in the Carolina Hurricanes' 4-3 victory over the Maple Leafs.
* At Tampa, Fla., Mark Recchi scored a power-play goal with 19.7 seconds left in the third period to lift Boston past the Lightning, 4-3.
* At St. Louis, Ty Conklin shut down a team that burned him for seven goals last month, stopping 25 shots in the Blues' 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
* At Nashville, Loui Eriksson scored a goal and added an assist, and Andrew Raycroft made 44 saves as Dallas defeated the Predators, 4-2.
* At Edmonton, Mike Weber's first two goals of the season led the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-2 win over the Oilers.
* At Phoenix, first-period goals by former Flyers Luca Sbisa and Joffrey Lupul led the Anaheim Dcuks over the Coyotes, 3-1.