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Crosby, Malkin lead Pens to East’s top spot (for now)

Dec 9, 2013, 10:21 PM EDT

The Pittsburgh Penguins limped into Monday’s game with injured defensemen (add Brooks Orpik to the growing list) and key sniper James Neal suspended, but their biggest names still made it happen in a 2-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Evgeni Malkin scored and was a difference-maker in his return to action while Sidney Crosby notched an odd game-winner to eke out the Pens’ sixth straight home win:

Marc-Andre Fleury almost earned a shutout (and a rare goal for a goalie), settling for his 17th win of the 2013-14 season.

Curtis McElhinney obviously didn’t get the win, as the Blue Jackets allowed two goals after piling up two consecutive shutouts. Still, the journeyman goalie stopped 28 out of 30 shots, so there’s still reason to believe that he could help them survive Sergei Bobrovsky‘s lengthy absence.

With this win, the Penguins have 43 standings points on the season, giving them the top spot in the East. Their buddies the Boston Bruins aren’t far behind, however, as they have 42 points and two games in hand (30 games played versus Pittsburgh’s 32).

Meanwhile, the Blue Jackets find themselves outside of the playoff picture right now with a 12-15-3 record for 27 points.

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