Penguins: Crosby's offensive talents resurface
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The Penguins felt good about getting Kris Letang back last night.
Tyler Kennedy, too. And Alex Goligoski.
But the return that had the greatest impact on their 8-3 victory against the New York Rangers at Mellon Arena was not made by a guy who had been injured.
Rather, it was the re-emergence of Sidney Crosby's volatile offensive talents, which had been -- at least by his world-class standards -- relatively dormant for much of this season.
Sure, Crosby had been tied for 16th place in the NHL points race before scoring three goals and setting up two others against New York, but the performance bar is set a lot higher for him than it is for most mortals.
"It's not like he was playing brutal for us," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "Everybody has such high expectations for him. When he scores one or two goals, nobody thinks it's enough.
"I thought he's been playing very well for us, overall. Maybe not as much scoring, but, at the same time, he's done a lot of good things."
Crosby's hat trick was his second of the season and fourth in the NHL. He also recorded his first five-point game of 2009-10 -- he had not managed more than three in any of the previous 26 games -- and came up just one point shy of his career-high.
By the end of the night, Crosby's personal linescore was stocked: 3 goals, 2 assists and 5 shots in 19 minutes, 59 seconds of playing time.
He was not the only one to make a significant offensive contribution, though. Evgeni Malkin had one goal and an assist, while Gonchar, Letang, Goligoski and Brooks Orpik got two assists each.
"That [diversified offense] is what we need," Crosby said. "That's how we get success."
Crosby's rampage came on a night when New York goalie Steve Valiquette had problems stopping a particular type of shot. The type that goes on goal.
The Penguins should not count on seeing Valiquette again when they meet the Rangers tomorrow at 7:08 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, but they can expect to renew acquaintances with the likes of Donald Brashear, Sean Avery and Ryan Callahan.
All were outraged by aMatt Cooke hit on Rangers forward Artem Anisimov in the third period and did nothing to hide their feelings.
Cooke's take on the hit -- "He was coming across the middle, and I'm a guy who finishes his checks" -- was, predictably, quite different from that of the Rangers'.
"He leaves his feet," New York coach John Tortorella said. "It's an absolute head shot."
Brashear tried to exact revenge and got a pairing of roughing minors for his trouble. The Penguins turned both into power-play goals.
"I don't know what he was trying to do," Cooke said. "I don't think it's my job to fight him, but he took four minutes [of penalties], and we scored on both."
Those goals closed out the scoring in a game in which New York took its only lead, 1-0, on a spectacular effort by defenseman Marc Staal at 9:50 of the opening period.
But the Penguins pulled even when Malkin converted a Crosby feed at 14:37, and Crosby (17:43) and Max Talbot (18:29) put them up by two at the intermission.
Matt Gilroy got New York back into the game when he scored on a wrist shot through heavy traffic at 14:33 of the second, but Mark Eaton restored the Penguins' two-goal lead before intermission.
Just before the intermission.
As in, three-tenths of a second before.
Eaton's wrist shot from the left point was the latest goal the Penguins have scored in a period this season. That distinction previously belonged to Bill Guerin, who tied a game against Boston two weeks earlier by scoring with four-tenths left in regulation.
Ex-Penguin Michal Rozsival made it 4-3 33 seconds into the third, but Crosby (3:14), Pascal Dupuis (7:20), Crosby (11:29) and Kennedy (11:54) put pucks past Valiquette to close out the scoring.
"Any time you put that many goals up, it's a fun game," Crosby said.
Particularly when it coincides with a cap giveaway, which likely explains why the ice was covered with them after Crosby scored his third.
"It was pretty weird, the way it worked out," he said. "But what better time to do it?"
First Published November 29, 2009 12:06 am