PITTSBURGH (AP) – Sergei Gonchar scored the go-ahead goal and set up another by Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored three power-play goals, ending a five-game losing streak by beating the penalty-prone Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 Friday night.

Sidney Crosby ended a two-game scoreless streak by assisting on three goals, giving him an NHL-leading 58 points in 34 games and 26 points in December. The 19-year-old Crosby has had only one streak of three games without a point since coming into the league last season.

The Maple Leafs, with former Penguins goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin in goal, lost in Pittsburgh for the first time in eight games since Nov. 1, 2001, mostly because they gave Pittsburgh 10 power-play chances. The Penguins have scored five power-play goals in two games since breaking out of a 2-for-35 slump with the man advantage.

Or, as in the case of Gonchar’s sixth goal, a two-man advantage. With Bryan McCabe and Mats Sundin off after drawing penalties 16 seconds apart, Gonchar powered a one-timer off Crosby’s pass to the point off Aubin’s blocker and into the net. It was Gonchar’s first goal and first point since his two-goal, five-point game Dec. 13 against Philadelphia.

Gonchar’s goal came less than a minute in the third period. About 6 minutes later, with Pittsburgh on another power play, Gonchar faked a slap shot from the point and slid the puck to Malkin to the side of the net for the rookie’s 18th goal.

Erik Christensen had given Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead for the second game in a row, this time in the final minute of the first period with a shot from along the goal line off Crosby’s feed.

The Maple Leafs, playing without forward Darcy Tucker (bruised foot) lost their fourth in five games despite Mats Sundin’s 16th goal midway through the second, the only one of their 31 shots to get past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Sundin’s 36th goal in 47 career games against Pittsburgh was the 512th of his career, tying him with Gil Perreault for 31st place in NHL history.

Toronto had won nine of its last 10 against the Penguins.

AP-ES-12-29-06 2218EST


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