Crosby hurt; Penguins fall, 3-0
Sidney Crosby grimaces after crashing into the boards in the first period, Crosby left the game with a high ankle sprain.
Sidney Crosby is taken down by the Lightning's Paul Ranger before crashing in to the boards in the first period. Crosby left the game with a high ankle sprain.
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The Penguins and storybook goaltender Ty Conklin finally lost in regulation, 3-0. Their shot at taking over the Atlantic Division lead wilted. Evgeni Malkin's point streak was stopped after six games. And the matchup between the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier never developed.
Not exactly a stellar scenario, but all of that meant little after the 7:37 mark of the first period last night at Mellon Arena.
That's when Crosby, the team captain who entered the game tied with Lecavalier for the NHL scoring lead, left after he got what the team described as a high ankle sprain -- an injury that often carries a recovery time measured in weeks or months.
Crosby did not make the trip with the team to Montreal for the game tonight and will be re-evaluated today, although team officials cautioned that it could be a few days before the extent of the injury and a timeline for his return can be established.
"He's the best player in the world. You can't replace him," defenseman Brooks Orpik said.
Crosby, the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game next weekend, was helped off the ice after his right foot bent awkwardly as he slammed into the end boards.
• Game: Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7:08 p.m.
• Where: Bell Centre, Montreal.
• TV: FSN Pittsburgh.
He is the third Penguins player with a high ankle sprain this season.
Center Maxime Talbot missed four games in late November and returned only to discover he had come back too early. He then was out another month.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury -- whose injury has opened the door for Conklin to steal a lot of headlines -- left early from a Dec. 6 game and could be out another two weeks to a month or longer.
"It's a huge loss," coach Michel Therrien said of Crosby. "He's the heart, our leader. We're going to battle through. A lot of guys are going to have to pick it up."
A lot of offensive responsibility will fall to Malkin, who recently has been Crosby's linemate.
"I'm going to try my best to play my best," a downcast Malkin said.
Malkin would be a likely candidate to replace Crosby in the All-Star lineup.
On the play, Crosby got the puck at center ice and zoomed toward the net. He angled slightly to his right in an attempt to get around Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Ranger, and the two got tangled.
Crosby's right leg jutted out at an awkward angle, and he slid down to the ice and slammed right-foot-first into the end boards.
He rolled over to his knees, got up slowly and put some weight on his right skate.
Within a few seconds, he glided toward the Penguins' runway without pushing off with his right skate and, slumped, was helped into the locker room.
"When I saw him leave the ice, I got the feeling it was pretty scary," Therrien said.
Crosby is the reigning league scoring champion and MVP. The Penguins are 0-2-2 when he does not dress for a game since he entered the league in 2005-06. He missed three games with a groin injury as a rookie -- an injury he got in a game against Tampa Bay -- and one game last season because of the flu. He has dressed for every game this season.
If Crosby misses significant time, it will be a loss felt throughout the NHL. He has become the face of the league.
"He's done so much for the league and every player in the league," Lecavalier said after yesterday's morning skate. "He's brought the game to a new level, recognition to the game. He's a great marketing guy for the league."
The Penguins had been on a 9-0-1 run, and Conklin had been 10-0-1 since he was recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but backup goaltender Johan Holmqvist stopped 27 shots for the Lightning's first shutout of the season.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead when winger Kyle Wanvig picked up his sixth NHL goal at 4:34 off a feed from defenseman Mike Lundin.
After Crosby was hurt, Tampa Bay made it 2-0.
Chris Gratton, set up in the slot by former Penguin Andre Roy, slipped a backhanded shot under Conklin at 10:51.
Tampa Bay sealed things when Roy -- an unlikely offensive hero -- picked up his third point of the night with a goal at 5:32 of the third period. His lofted shot from the slot got past two players on its way to the net.
Through it all, the Penguins kept hoping Crosby would return.
"He takes a lot of abuse the way he plays and battles right through it," Orpik said. "We knew when he didn't come back it had to be something rather serious.
"But you can't feel sorry for yourselves. You have to move on and battle through it."
Matchup: Penguins at Montreal Canadiens, 7:08 p.m. today, Bell Centre, Montreal.
TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Ty Conklin for Penguins. Cristobal Huet for Montreal.
Penguins: Have won just two games in Montreal over past seven seasons. ... Are 7-4-1 vs. Northeast Division. ... Are 8-2-1 in past 11 road games.
Canadiens: Have won four of past five games. ... Penalty killing (23.9 percent) among best in NHL. ... Andrei Markov through yesterday was tied for second among defensemen with 11 goals.
Hidden stat: Montreal entered its game Thursday at Atlanta ranked No. 1 in power play but went 0 for 4 in 3-2 shootout win.
First Published January 19, 2008 12:13 am