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Patric Hornqvist, Matthew Murray power the Pittsburgh Penguins past the Colorado Avalanche

By
Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
Patric Hornqvist scored two goals, Matthew Murray had 27 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Thursday night. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Patric Hornqvist scored two goals, Matthew Murray had 27 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Thursday night. File Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

DENVER -- Sidney Crosby didn't get the two points he needed but his team picked up a valuable pair despite an off night.

Patric Hornqvist scored two goals, Matthew Murray had 27 saves and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Thursday night.

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Crosby had chances but came up empty to remain at 998 points for his career. He'll next try to become the 86th player to reach the 1,000-point mark when the Penguins play at Arizona on Saturday night.

"I'd love to get it over with just so I don't have to keep answering about it," Crosby said. "The quicker the better. Hopefully get it done here shortly."

Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist, Chris Kunitz scored into an empty net and Justin Schultz and Matt Cullen had two assists apiece for Pittsburgh (34-13-6). The Penguins moved a point ahead of Columbus into second place in the Metropolitan Division despite not playing a sharp game.

"We gave up too much," Crosby said. "We were fortunate Murray made some big saves and they hit some posts. We'll take it but it wasn't our best game."

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Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and Calvin Pickard stopped 26 shots for the Avalanche (15-34-2). Colorado, which had its modest two-game winning streak stopped, avoided being shut out for the ninth time when Landeskog scored on the power play with 3:13 left.

Crosby, who is tied for the NHL lead in points with 60, is poised to hit the milestone in fewer games than any of the seven active players who reached the mark. He will accomplish that if he gets it before his 763rd game. He played his 754th game Thursday.

He had two shots Thursday and missed an empty net from the blue line with 1:40 left.

"I think Sid could have had three or four points tonight," said Nathan Mackinnon, who hit the post twice, including 22 seconds into the game. "Pick made some big saves. He made some great passes and eventually you say, 'Wow, how does he do that?' That's why he's been the best for 12 years."

Reaching 1,000 points on this trip would be even more special considering Crosby's father, Troy, is along for the ride as part of the team's dads trip. Crosby isn't worried about when it will happen.

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"The points will take care of themselves," Crosby said. "The chances are there."

Crosby's linemate, Bryan Rust, left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury after crashing into Pickard on a scoring chance.

"He's got to get reevaluated," Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. "We'll probably have more information moving forward. Hopefully it won't be too bad."

Landeskog's 10th goal at 16:44 spoiled Murray's shutout bid and gave Colorado some reward after hitting the post four times.

"Some of those games earlier in the year, 3-0 turned into 6-0," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "Tonight, we continued to push."

The Penguins took a 1-0 lead when Kessel scored on an odd-man rush at 4:01 of the first. Cullen got the puck off a neutral zone turnover and fed Kessel, who beat Pickard through the pads for this 18th goal of the season.

Hornqvist made it 2-0 at 3:50 of the second when he scored 13 seconds into Pittsburgh's third power-play chance of the night.

MacKinnon hit his second post of the game a few minutes later when he came in alone on Murray.

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Another Avalanche turnover led to Hornqvist's second goal at 18:38 of the second and gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.

"The first one bounced off I don't know how many guys and came right on my stick and I finished. The other one was off the draw, I finished my hit and Schultzie did a good job keeping it in and shot it to the net," said Hornqvist, who now has 17 goals. "Some nights you find those loose pucks, but the thing is if you spend a lot of time there you're going to get a lot of goals."

NOTES:

-- Penguins C Evgeni Malkin missed his sixth straight game with a lower-body injury but could return Saturday at Arizona. Malkin took part in Thursday's morning skate and coach Mike Sullivan said he is making progress. Malkin was fifth in the NHL in scoring with 54 points entering Thursday.

-- Avalanche D Tyson Barrie missed his seventh game in the last nine because of a lower-body injury.

-- Pittsburgh F Carl Hagelin remains in the concussion protocol but could join the team on the two-game road trip.

-- Colorado F Rene Bourque (head) missed his sixth game in the last eight.

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-- Avalanche F Matt Nieto was in the lineup after leaving Tuesday's game when he took a shot on the calf.

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