The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

March 11, 2013

Kunitz nets hat trick as Penguins win big

PITTSBURGH — PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins might not have reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin for a couple of weeks because of an undisclosed upper body injury.

Considering the way the rest of the Penguins are playing, Malkin can take his time getting healthy.

Sidney Crosby tied a career high with five assists, and Chris Kunitz posted his second hat trick of the season as the Penguins rocked the New York Islanders 6-1 on Sunday night for their fifth straight win.

Kunitz added two assists to move into third place in the NHL scoring race with 36 points, nine behind Crosby's league-leading total. It's rarified air for a player known more for his dirty work in front of the net than his talent for finding the back of it.

"He's not a flashy player," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's not a guy that goes end-to-end and tries to beat guys one on one. He's straight lines. He's real simple in how he plays."

Kunitz made it look simple on a night the NHL's highest-scoring team hardly looked tired playing its third game in 72 hours. He jammed home a couple of power-play goals to help Pittsburgh bolt to a 3-0 lead and then capped his fourth career hat trick on a rebound midway through the second period to turn away a mild New York surge.

Kunitz's career high is 61 points, set last season. There is a chance he could top that in a lockout-shortened, 48-game sprint. The nine-year veteran has a pretty easy explanation for his uptick in production.

"I get to play with the best player in the world every night," Kunitz said. "It makes going out and playing a lot of fun."

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