Sidney Crosby's second-period goal in the Penguins' 5-0 victory against Atlanta Saturday at Mellon Arena was his 87th in the NHL.
Some might consider that an interesting nugget of data, given that Crosby wears sweater No. 87.
The really striking thing about the goal, though, was the way Crosby scored it.
On a slap shot. From above the right circle. Which is about 10 times farther from the net than the areas in which he generally scores.
"That's the first slap shot I've scored on in three years, I think," Crosby said. "I'll take it."
Atlanta turned in a performance worthy of the Washington Generals Saturday, providing opposition that looked credible at times, but never seriously threatening to win the game.
The Penguins dominated the Thrashers in one-on-one battles, and almost all contact initiated by Atlanta appeared to be incidental; Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was credited with six hits, while the entire Atlanta team had 10 (three by ex-Penguin Chris Thorburn).
Such a listless effort has not been the norm for the Thrashers -- they were on an 11-4 roll before being shut out by New Jersey, 3-0, Friday and by the Penguins the next night -- and coach Don Waddell suggested that a hectic schedule contributed to it.
"It is not an excuse, but we were worn out a little bit from playing four games in six nights," Waddell said. Shortly thereafter, he added, "obviously, we hit a bit of a wall here."
Staal's fatherly advice
Jordan Staal of the Penguins snapped a 14-game pointless streak by assisting on Tyler Kennedy's goal in Ottawa Thursday, then got his first goal in 16 games two nights later against the Thrashers.
Whether any outside force played a part in helping Staal end his droughts is hard to say. He does, however, routinely get advice from his father, for whom games featuring his three sons with jobs in the NHL are must-see TV back in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
"He tries to give me tips here and there of what I can improve on," Staal said. "He's always watching, so he's a good guy to talk to."
Inching his way back
Former Penguins defenseman Francois Leroux made an improbable comeback last season, when he came out of retirement to play for St. Jean in the Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey in his native Quebec.
Now, describing the LNAH's product as "hockey" is a bit of a stretch -- shots and goals and saves are pretty much just filler for those rare moments when there isn't a fight going on -- but things went well enough for Leroux there that he stepped up in class last week.
At age 37, he signed with the Penguins' ECHL team in Wheeling and made his Nailers debut Wednesday, launching three shots on goal -- a good month's output back in his NHL days -- and picking up a tripping minor.
That Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who got at least one point in 15 consecutive games before being shut out Saturday, would own the longest scoring streak ever by a Russian player in the NHL isn't a major surprise.
The identity of the guy who set that standard before Malkin is.
It was not one of the many spectacular talents from that country -- not Pavel Bure or Alex Kovalev or Igor Larionov or Alex Ovechkin -- but the utterly forgettable Dmitri Kvartalnov, who played for Boston in 1992-93 and 1993-94.