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Pens rout Devils to go fourth in East

THE Pittsburgh Penguins enjoyed a high-scoring night and moved into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 6-1 home win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

Top scorers Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby scored powerplay goals to help the Penguins (42-27-8) catch the Philadelphia Flyers in the standings with five games remaining.

The top four teams in each conference receive home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"We wanted to take advantage of being at home," Crosby told reporters, after Pittsburgh finished an eight-game homestand with six wins.

"It was a good scenario for us and now we have to keep going. (Tonight) we didn't change the way we played or let-up at all, we had to make sure we kept doing the same things."

The Devils (47-26-4) have lost six straight and are holding on to third in the East, having already secured their playoff berth.

Elsewhere in the National Hockey League, it was: Capitals 5, Islanders 3; Thrashers 3, Sabres 2 (in overtime); Maple Leafs 3, Flyers 2; Blackhawks 3, Blues 1; and Coyotes 3, Avalanche 0.

In Pittsburgh, the Penguins put the Devils behind early with first-period scores by Matt Cooke and Bill Guerin.

Brian Gionta put New Jersey on the board before NHL points leader Malkin made it 3-1 with his team-leading 34th goal at 17:11 in the first.

Crosby notched up his 30th goal of the year at 9:35 in the second, while Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz also scored.

The Penguins have turned things around and surged into the playoff picture since Dan Bylsma took over from the fired Michel Therrien in February.

"We have had to form an identity in a short amount of time," Bylsma said. "The Devils hadn't seen us play yet and we wanted to play the type of game they hadn't seen yet. It's human nature to look at the standings, but the focus for us is how we need to play."

Martin Brodeur, who became the NHL's all-time top game winner last month, failed to win for the sixth consecutive start.

In Washington, Mike Green's two powerplay goals less than 1 1/2 minutes apart in the third period and Alex Ovechkin's NHL-leading 54th tally helped Washington close in on a second consecutive division title.

Nicklas Backstrom added a final-minute goal for Washington, which completed its first season sweep of New York since 2002-03.


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