Crosby propels Penguins to 3-2 victory over Oilers

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The NHL didn't allow the Penguins to draw up the script for their 3-2 victory against the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center.

If the league had, however, it probably would have looked a lot like this:

The Penguins would be rested and playing at home, where they had won their first three games this season.

They would be facing a team that had played -- and lost, then traveled -- a night earlier, a team that was 1-4-1 in its previous six games and had turned to its backup goalie, presumably because its No. 1 had been leaking in nearly 5.5 goals per game.

Clearly, the Penguins had a great deal going for them.

And they needed pretty much all of it to piece together this victory.

The Oilers were resilient, not wilting after being overwhelmed for most of the first period and twice rebounding from one-goal deficits before absorbing their fifth regulation loss of 2013-14.

"That team's going to be really good in a couple of years," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said.

Of course, the one Orpik plays for already is.

The Penguins are 5-1, in part because Sidney Crosby is off to what he considers the best start of his career.

He assisted on all three Penguins goals against the Oilers to run his points total for the season to 12 and seize sole possession of first place in the NHL scoring race.

Crosby has at least one point in each of his first six games, matching his personal-best set as a rookie in 2005-06. That season, however, he put up just nine points in the first half-dozen games, three fewer than he has now.

And goals and assists aren't the only indication of how he has performed over the first two weeks of the season. Witness his 55.2 percent success rate on faceoffs.

"I try to evaluate myself not only on points, but on other things going on out there," Crosby said. "But it's nice to see them go in early on."

Crosby didn't just give the Penguins three assists Tuesday night; he contributed a little blood, as well.

With the score tied, 2-2, early in the third period, Edmonton defenseman Andrew Ference smacked him in the face with his stick.

Crosby ended up with a nasty gash on the right side of his tongue, presumably where Ference's stick made contact.

"I have a mouthguard, so it's pretty hard to really bite it like that," Crosby said.

Whatever the cause, it was hard to miss the way Crosby was bleeding from the mouth, but the officials apparently did, because Ference was sent to the penalty box for just two minutes, rather than being assessed a double-minor.

"He wanted four minutes, for sure," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I was actually hoping there was blood."

Bylsma appeared to be joking, but while he got the blood he wanted, he didn't get the extra two minutes of power-play time.

Turned out his club didn't need them, though, because Ference still was serving his minor for high-sticking when Evgeni Malkin put a shot past Oilers goalie Jason LaBarbera from the bottom of the right circle at 7:20 of the third for the goal that decided the outcome.

Malkin got the puck quite inadvertently as defenseman Paul Martin shanked a shot from the right point, sending the puck toward Malkin instead of the net.

"I don't know what happened," LaBarbera said. "All of a sudden, I looked over, and it was on [Malkin's] tape and I was kind of in no-man's land."

A split-second later, the puck went from Malkin's stick to the back of the net.

Malkin's winner was his first career goal against the Oilers; Crosby still doesn't have one, although it appeared he had scored the one that broke a 1-1 tie at 9:40 of the second.

Replays, however, showed that linemate Chris Kunitz got his stick on the puck before Crosby.

Kunitz, who joked with Crosby on the bench about ownership of the goal, said simply:

"I don't think we really care who ends up scoring, who gets credit for it."

Whether he's scoring goals or setting them up, Crosby has been in on a lot lately, putting up seven points in the past two games.

"He gets them," Kunitz said. "He's that good."


Dave Molinari: or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published October 15, 2013 5:44 PM


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