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Associated Press
12/9/2006 11:17:31 PM


ATLANTA (AP) - Back-to-back losses by one goal, including one in overtime, had the Pittsburgh Penguins thinking they were overdue to win a close one.

The wait - and the Penguins' four-game losing streak - ended on Saturday night.

Colby Armstrong scored on a wrist shot in front of the net off a pass from rookie Evgeni Malkin to give the Penguins a 4-3 overtime win over the Atlanta Thrashers.

Armstrong credited Malkin for setting up the winning goal, which came 3:51 into overtime.

"Malkin read the play well," Armstrong said. "He made a great play to get it to the net. It bounced right to me."

Malkin, 20, snapped out of a slump with a goal and two assists. Sidney Crosby had a goal and an assist as the Penguins avoided matching their longest losing streak of the season.

"We've been losing a lot of close games," Armstrong said. "To get a win like that against a good team is big.We had been in quite a slide."

The Thrashers battled from behind for three ties, including two goals in the third period to force the overtime.

Malkin, the second pick in the 2004 draft, was the first NHL rookie in almost 90 years to score in each of his first six games. The Russian had been held without a goal in four of five games, leading to a meeting with coach Michel Therrien on Friday.

"It's nice when you sit down with a guy and he responds like this," Therrien said, adding Malkin's performance "is a good sign that he understands English, too."

"He played with emotion and really worked hard."

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 40 shots as the listless Thrashers were outshot 43-23 and never led. The usually active Ilya Kovalchuk, who averages 4.3 shots per game, had only one shot.

The Southeast Division-leading Thrashers have lost two in a row after winning a franchise record-tying five straight games and seven of eight.

The Thrashers were outshot 16-4 in the opening period, but Pittsburgh's only goal came on Crosby's power-play tally.

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