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All eyes on Sidney Crosby as Pittsburgh Penguins beat Vancouver Canucks 2-1

The Canadian Press
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Vancouver Canucks' Sami Salo, right, chases down Pittsburg Penguins' Sidney Crosby during the second periond of NHL hockey action at GM Place in Vancouver, Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward Author: The Hockey News

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All eyes on Sidney Crosby as Pittsburgh Penguins beat Vancouver Canucks 2-1

The Canadian Press
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VANCOUVER - Sidney Crosby made most of the headlines during his first visit to Vancouver but it was Kris Letang who wrote the final chapter in the story by scoring the winning goal in the sixth round of a shootout to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-1 win over the Canucks Saturday night.

Letang silenced a crowd that was on its feet screaming by using a forehand deke to beat Canuck goaltender Roberto Luongo. It was Letang's second shootout winning goal in as many games, following a 3-2 victory against Calgary Thursday night.

"I felt great about that," said Letang, who has scored just twice in 11 regulation games this season. "It's not like I had more confidence. I scored (Thursday) and I just had to do it again."

Crosby, the man most fans paid to see, had two chances to win the game for Pittsburgh.

He was awarded a penalty shot in overtime after being hauled down by Vancouver's Aaron Miller on a breakaway. With the crowd roaring, Crosby had Luongo down but couldn't lift the puck and the Canuck goaltender stopped it with his glove.

The two squared off again in the shootout. Again Luongo blocked the shot.

"The first one I thought I had him," said Crosby, who had one shot on goal and was kept off the scoresheet for the second consecutive game. "If I had gotten it up a little bit more it was a goal.

"The second one, I probably rushed a little bit because the puck started to roll on me. Those are opportunities you thrive on. You hope to get those, unfortunately they didn't go it. For the other guys to step up it was big."

He was happy to let Letang be the hero again.

"It was a nice goal," said Crosby. "He scored a nice one the other night. He's got that confidence. He's been a game breaker."

It was Pittsburgh's first win in Vancouver in five tries, dating back to Nov. 2, 2000. It was the Penguins fourth consecutive victory and improved their record to 15-12-2.

"It was a great atmosphere out there," said Crosby. "The goalies made some great saves. It was tough to score. I think it was pretty entertaining for everyone."

Vancouver's Ryan Kesler forced the overtime with a third-period goal.

"It was a Hollywood script all the way to the end," said Kesler, who did a good job as Crosby shadow most of the night.

"I thought we should have had two points."

Petr Sykora opened the scoring for Pittsburgh in the first period.

Dany Sabourin, the Canucks backup goaltender last year, celebrated his return to Vancouver by playing great and stopping 35 shots.

"It was an awesome game," said Sabourin. "Maybe the perfect way to win tonight was 1-0 but that was pretty good too in the shootout."

Luongo made 31 saves for the Canucks, who lost for the first time at home in five games. Vancouver's record is 16-10-3.

The game wrapped up Pittsburgh's three-game western tour and it was Crosby's first time playing in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Crosby has now gone five games without a goal and two without a point.

He had three, third-period assists as the Penguins battled back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Oilers 4-2 Wednesday, but was held of the scoresheet and didn't get a shot on goal in Calgary.

The sellout crowd of 18,630 at GM Place gave Crosby a loud cheer when he stepped on the ice for the pre-game warm up but the Canucks weren't so cordial once the game started.

Antagonist Matt Cooke dumped him onto the ice after the opening faceoff. The match was just 43 seconds old when defenceman Willie Mitchell was handed a double minor for clipping Crosby in the face with a highstick.

The Canucks were able to kill off both penalties.

"I expected that, especially on this trip," Crosby said. "There was no hiding the fact we were going to town. I think all three games were pretty much a playoff atmosphere."

Canuck coach Alain Vigneault watched his team be outplayed for the game's first 30 minutes.

"It wasn't a great game early," said Vigneault. "It got better in the third. Our goalie made some great saves and their goalie made some great saves."

A pretty feed by Evgeni Malkin set up Pittsburgh's goal late in the opening period. The speedy Russian slid a pass over to Sykora who one-timed a bouncing puck past Luongo.

Kesler tied the score at 3:40 of the third. He fired a low shot that beat Sabourin on the stick side.

Luongo had to come up big early to keep Vancouver in the game.

In the first period he blocked a Erik Christensen blast, then stoned Malkin on the rebound. Later he made a great glove grab off a Sykora shot, then somehow got a leg on a Ryan Malone attempt.

The Canucks finally managed to apply some pressure in the second period. Henrik Sedin just missed the top corner with a blast and Brendan Morrison thought he had tied the game with a shot that was just high. Sabourin also made a leg save off Daniel Sedin.

Notes: - Former Canuck Jarkko Ruutu also marked his return to Vancouver. ...Tickets for the game were going for as much as $800. ... The teams last played Jan. 16, 2006, with Vancouver winning 4-2 in Pittsburgh. ...The last time the Penguins played in Vancouver was Dec. 9, 2003 with the Canucks winning 4-3.

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All eyes on Sidney Crosby as Pittsburgh Penguins beat Vancouver Canucks 2-1