Bolting back

March 3, 2008

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Sidney Crosby returns from a 21-game layoff and helps the Penguins to a 2-0 win in Tampa Bay.

Pregame

-According to EN reader Lowell Murray, Crosby took to the ice to a thunderous applause.

-During the pregame show, Michel Therrien reveals that he was in his hotel room when Crosby came by and said he was healthy enough to play. For some reason, we can see Therrien chilling on the bed in his boxers while watching re-runs of "The Family Feud" when he heard a knock at his door.

-Rob Scuderi, Marian Hossa and Dany Sabourin are scratched for the Penguins.

-Filip Kuba is Tampa Bay's only scratch.

-FSN Pittsburgh uses some of Kanye West's "Stronger" to highlight Crosby's return.

-Marc-Andre Fleury gets the nod in net.

-Tampa Bay goes with Mike Smith who they picked up from Dallas at the trade deadline last week.

-A clean-shaven Maxime Talbot is interviewed by Dan Potash.

FIRST PERIOD

19:15: Sidney Crosby takes the ice for the first time since being injured.

18:42: Talbot brings the puck into the zone and slides a pass across the crease to Crosby. Crosby tries to re-direct it, but the puck goes just wide of the net.

18:15: As Crosby leaves the ice, Bob Errey compares the shift to Mario Lemieux's first in the NHL. Uh, not quite...

14:40: FSN Pittsburgh shows us the lines:

Forwards

Malone-Malkin-Sykora

Talbot-Crosby-Dupuis

Taffe-Staal-Kennedy

Ruutu-Minard-Laraque

14:00: Sergei Gonchar jumps into the offensive zone, picks up the puck and clinks a post off the post.

13:55: Coming back from commercial we get a shot of the crowd. We spot a Canadiens and a Nordiques jersey.

12:17: Ryan Malone has a prime opportunity in the crease. He hesitates and completely misses the net.

11:04: Jordan Staal collides with Junior Lessard and skates over to the bench hunched over in pain. Only this team could have Sidney Crosby come back only to see another player get hurt.

10:12: "Miss-The-Net" Michel Ouellet (how we've missed being able to type that) wraps Talbot up with a hug. No call.

9:50: Mathieu Darche brings the puck up ice, crosses into the slot, uses Gonchar as a screen and fires a shot low. Fleury kicks it out.

9:27: Malkin undresses Dan Boyle, swoops behind the Tampa Bay defense, and tries to slide the puck underneath Smith's left leg. Smith is able to keep the puck out and covers it. Coming back from commercial, the theme to " Sesame Street" can be heard:

7:19: Staal returns to the ice.

6:06: Brooks Orpik bear-hugs Jeff Halpern then tackles him. The official puts his hand up. Orpik wonders what "holding" is. It's two minutes. Staal can be seen back on the bench in more pain.

5:49: Ryan Whitney blocks a shot. No, that is not a typo.

4:58: Martin St. Louis takes a pass and jets in on net. He dekes to the forehand and is denied by Fleury.

4:46: Vincent Lecavalier makes a nifty backhanded pass to Jokinen in the slot. Jokinen snaps quick shot but is denied by Fleury.

3:48: Crosby takes a pass in the slot, splits the defense and generates a breakaway. He shoots low, but Smith is able to cover it up. Bob Errey says, "He's flying and it's not because it's hot down here." What in the world does that mean?

3:29: Paul Steigerwald mentions that Staal has left the bench. Ugh.

1:27: St. Louis snaps a wrister off the goal post.

0:58: Ouellet gets a chance at a one-timer in crease but Fleury is there with the save.

0:00: End of period. Lighting 0, Penguins 0.

FIRST INTERMISSION

-For the most part, both teams were pretty tentative in that period.

-The Lighting is out-shooting the Penguins 10-6.

-Crosby had 5:15 of ice-time.

-Potash interviews Hal Gill who looks as if he just woke up.

-We know the commercial has become a cult classic, but did anyone tell A&L Motors Colby Armstrong was traded? Despite that, they're still running the commercial.

SECOND PERIOD

16:17: Talbot slides the puck into the crease and Smith kicks it out.

15:00: Laraque makes a decent pass into the crease for Chris Minard. Minard can't get his stick on the puck however and it slides into the corner.

13:44: Crosby makes a nice pass from behind the net to Tyler Kennedy who fires a quick shot. Smith is there again with the save.

12:07: Halpern gets a shot off from the left faceoff circle. Fleury goes down and makes a nice save in the butterfly.

12:07: Halpern gets a shot off from the left faceoff circle. Fleury goes down and makes a nice save in the butterfly.

11:40: According to Errey, Staal has bruised ribs and is doubtful to return.

10:20: Kris Letang steals the puck off Lecavalier and gets tripped up. Two minutes.

8:55: Darche hammers Malkin to the ice with a nice check. Darche has been playing well.

8:28: Which of these doesn't belong: The Penguins power-play unit on the ice is comprised of Kennedy, Letang, Darryl Sydor and Crosby.

7:12: Crosby shove Shane O'Brien (6-foot-2, 237 pounds), who's hardly a small man, to the ice from behind.

6:35: Ouellet yanks out Brooks Orpik's legs from beneath him. No call. Halpern follows up by checking Oprik to the ice with an elbow to the chest.

6:25: Ouellet gets a weak shot on net. Fleury covers it up. A small scrum ensues.

6:07: Gill sends a nice pass up ice to Sykora in the slot. Sykora splits the defense, gets tripped up by Paul Ranger and crashes into the boards. He's shaken up a bit but collects himself. The officials award him a penalty shot. He goes to the bench to wipe his visor. He takes the puck wide to the right, moves back into the slot, fakes a slapper and makes a pretty weak effort by going for a backhander low. Smith stands his ground. Sykora goes to the bench and trainer Chris Stewart checks his shoulder.

5:50: Halpern gets behind Sydor with the puck, crosses across the slot and has an opportunity to throw a backhander into an empty cage, but misses wide.

5:25: O'Brien moves in from the point and has a chance on a quick-passing play but he too misses the net.

2:31: Mike Lundin hauls down Jarkko Ruutu. Two minutes.

2:10: Craig MacDonald blasts a slapper high on net. Fleury knocks it away.

0:15: Pascal Dupuis slides a shot just through the crease.

0:00: End of period. Lightning 0, Penguins 0.

SECOND INTERMISSION

-When they won the Stanley Cup back in 2003-04, the Lightning had a philosophy of "Safe is Death." In others words, don't sit back and play defense. Go for goals. Try to outscore the opposition. It was refreshing to see a team take that approach we the NHL was still pretty much immersed in the "dead puck" era. It was also easier to do when the Lightning had guys like Sydor, Ruslan Fedotenko, Dave Andreychuk, Cory Stillman and Pavel Kubina providing depth on their roster and a competent goaltender like Nikolai Khabibulin to rely on. Now, when they only have a handful of quality players, the Lightning have all but abandoned that philosophy.

-The Penguins are getting outshot 23-10.

-Party because Staal left the game, Crosby ice time increased to 8:26 in that period. He has a total of 13:41 for the game.

THIRD PERIOD

17:44: Gill fires a one-timer that Smith knocks it away.

14:31: Lecavalier fires a shot high on net. Fleury traps it against his chest and freezes play.

14:23: Talbot gets away with a trip on Nick Tarnasky.

13:43: Kennedy fires a shot through traffic from the slot. Smith shuffles it away with his blocker.

13:26: O'Brien and Ruutu are exchanges shoves in the slot. O'Brien drops his gloves and sticks but Ruutu keeps playing. Somehow nothing is called.

13:10: Malkin snaps a pass across the slot and Crosby fires one-timer but Smith is able to slide across the crease and come up with a huge save.

12:44: Darche whacks Dupuis in the face with his stick. It's a "two-minuter" according to Errey.

12:27: Malkin circles along the boards and sends a wrister on net. Smith grabs it easily.

11:46: Ranger blasts a one-timer on net. Fleury kicks it out.

8:16: What rust? Smith makes a nice play on a puck behind his net and moves it to St. Louis. St. Louis then passes it up ice to Lecavalier and springs him on a breakaway. He bears down on the net and tries to sneak it through Fleury's five hole on the backhand. No dice. Fleury squeezes the pads and keeps the game scoreless.

7:50: St. Louis bring the puck into the offensive zone and slide a pass into the crease. Jokinen sends a shot just wide.

7:07: Amazingly the first icing call of the night doesn't occur until this late in the contest.

6:08: Kennedy swoops behind he net, uses Ruutu as a screen, turns and whips a shot on net. Smith looses track of it but is still able to cover it.

5:35: Kennedy enters the Tampa Bay zone, winds up and fires a slapper. Smith again makes the save. This guy is like Ty Conklin. He doesn't do anything spectacular. He just makes saves.

4:48: Malkin brings the puck up ice and drops it off to Malone at the point. He throws a shot on net. Smith again makes an easy save.

3:45: Malone comes down the left side and throws another shot on net. Smith makes another save.

2:47: Finally! Talbot enters the offensive zone and drops it for Crosby. Crosby centers a backhander into the slot. The puck hits a skate and Talbot is there to slide it by a helpless Smith. Penguin 1-0.

2:06: Gonchar makes contact with St. Louis in the crease and St. Louis reacts as if he were hit by a missile. He got away with a dive there.

1:13: O'Brien throws the puck on net. Fleury knocks it down and covers it up. Tampa Bay calls a time out. Smith leaves the net for an extra attacker. O'Brien and Gill exchange shoves.

1:03: Crosby races for a loose puck in the Tampa Bay zone and slides a shot just wide.

0:25: Halpern tries to go for a loose puck in crease but get tackled by Malone. No call.

0:04: Without a stick, Talbot forces Boyle into turning over the puck. He taps it up to Malkin with his hand. Malkin races towards the Tampa Bay net and calmly slide it in for one of us. Penguins 2-0.

0:00: End of game. Penguins 2, Lightning 0.

POSTGAME

-Holy Brad Werenka was that a boring game. When word broke that Sidney Crosby was going to play in this game, maybe we expected this game to become a brilliant 4-3 showcase for guys like Crosby and Malkin to go at it against Lecavalier and St. Louis. But there wasn't a lot of anything in this game. Very little scoring. Very little checking. Very little in the way of penalties. Very little in scrums.

-Crosby looked in game shape, but he was clearly a little rusty.

-Marc-Andre Fleury was big making 35 saves.

-Mike Smith played well as well by making 21 saves. He deserved a better fate.

-We know Smith just was traded to Tampa Bay last week so trying to get some new pads broken in by now would be a pretty tall order. But man did those things look ugly.

-We'll accept that his pads probably looked uglier considering he now wears that death ninja assassin squad outfit the Lightning calls a uniform. That said, his pads looked kind of ugly when he was with Dallas.

-The officials had a very poor game. They let far too much go.

-What ankle sprain? Crosby had 22:07 of ice time. Only Malkin (23:23) had more among Penguins forwards.

-Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon came and met Crosby in the locker room. The Yankees then offered Crosby $939,332,385 to pitch for them next season.

-The Penguins let Crosby choose when to come back.

-EN reader Lowell Murray tells us he was leaving the arena and he ran into Gary Roberts on the elevator. Lowell managed to survive the encounter and sent us an e-mail claiming Roberts said his leg was feeling much better.

-Michel Therrien is a man of his word.

-Shelly Anderson's recap.

-Game Summary.

-Event Summary.

-Highlights:

-A reader writes:

"I thought you might like to know the best jerseys I saw at the game against the Bolts last night.

-Joe Sakic-Nordiques (Sweet)

-Georges Laraque.

Jarkko Ruutu.

-And of course my Reebok Edge-Super-Duper-Mega-Ultra-Awesome-Humungo-Women-Will-Want-Me Gonch jersey!"

-Craig Cross, Tampa

EN-While we vehemently disagree with that last jersey, this is some top notch man-on-the-scene reporting from Craig.

EMPTY NETTER ASSISTS

Penguins

-Evgeni Malkin likes to chat on the Internet. LOL.

-James Mirtle is looking for Penguins tickets.

-Tim Brent and Ryan Stone each had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win at Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Phantoms made a classy gesture and named Dennis Bonvie, who will retire after the season, the games's third star. It was Bonvie's last regular season in Philadelphia.

-Do you want Mike Lange back on television? Visit http://bringbackmike.com/.

-Random YouTube find of the day: TSN had a nice piece about NHL players who have dealt with cancer:

-Second Random YouTube find of the day: Ron Francis the quiet star.

Atlantic Division

-The Devils kept pace with the Penguins and claimed a 4-1 win in Toronto. Zach Parise scored two goals.

-Check out the goal the Devils scored at roughly the 3:20 mark of this video:

-Jeff Tambellini's shootout goal gave the Islanders a 4-3 road win against the rival Rangers.

-The Islanders got some good news. Injured Philadelphia defenseman Derian Hatcher could return to the lineup Saturday.

Northeast Division

-A little help from the officials aided the Sabres in a 5-2 win in Philadelphia. Maxim Afinogenov had two goals and an assist for the Sabres.

-Check out Afinogenov's goal at roughtly the 0:45 mark of this video:

-Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward is dealing with a foot injury.

-Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson must be psyched for the new Indiana Jones movie coming out or something:

Southeast Division

-Nathan Horton's overtime goal gave the Panthers a 1-0 win at Boston. Panthers goaltender Craig Anderson had his second great game in a row by stopping 40 shots. He had a 53-save effort in a 1-0 shutout of the Islanders Sunday.

Central Division

-Former Penguins goaltender Patrick Lalime made 28 saves and led the Blackhkawks to a 4-2 win at Chicago. Jason Williams had a goal and an assist for Chicago.

-Martin Erat's first career hat trick led the Predators to a 5-1 romp of the Oilers.

-Manny Legace stopped 30 shots for the Blues in a 3-2 defeat of the Kings.

-The Red Wings activated defenseman Brian Rafalski from injured reserve.

-Predators forward Martin Gelinas will miss the rest of the season due to a torn ACL.

-Did Adam Foote force his way out of Columbus by threatening to be a "bad teammate?"

Northwest Division

-Peter Forsberg's first game back in the NHL saw him help lead the Avalanche to a 2-1 defeat of the rival Canucks. Forsberg logged 19:57 of ice time while Andrew Brunette recorded two assists.

-The Flames got 39 saves from Mikka Kiprusoff in a 1-0 defeat of the Blue Jackets.

Pacific Division

-With forward Mike Ribeiro dealing with an injury, the Stars recalled former Penguins forward Toby Petersen from Iowa of the AHL.

-Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick feels he wants to play another season.

Adams Division

-The OHL has made neck guards mandatory.



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