Crosby dominates in comeback vs. Islanders
Sidney Crosby required one shift to shake off the rust, another to score a goal and about half a game to pronounce to the National Hockey League that his status as the world's greatest player was not altered by a nearly 11-month absence due to a concussion.
Crosby produced one of the great performances of his career, scoring twice and adding two assists in the Penguins' 5-0 victory against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center on Monday, further proof that the Crosby Show isn't close to syndication.
"People were asking me if I thought he was going to leave off where he did before," defenseman Kris Letang said. "I said he was going to put on a good show. And that's what he did."
Calling it a "good show" might be an understatement. From the moment Crosby took the ice to a thunderous ovation to the game's final shift, as he flashed a big smile at the end of a nearly perfect game, Crosby owned the night.
It was a Lemieux-esque return, as Crosby literally was a threat to score on every one of his 21 shifts. He scored a patented Crosby goal on the rush in the first period, set up defenseman Brooks Orpik's goal later in the period, received an assist on center Evgeni Malkin's power-play goal and scored on another backhanded shot in the third period.
Not bad for a guy who hadn't played in an NHL game in almost a year.
It's a night Crosby won't soon forget, as the ovation he received appeared to touch him deeply.
"It was far beyond what I expected," Crosby said. "Starting at home was extra special. They're (the fans) the reason for that. It was an unbelievable ovation. I appreciate that. It was a special thing that I'll always remember."
Crosby's description of the ovation also could be used to define his performance. Rarely does anyone — even all-time greats — look close to flawless when returning from such a long layoff. However, Crosby looked like the player who took control of the NHL last season.
His stats are mesmerizing enough — he produced two goals, two assists, eight shots and won 14 of 21 faceoffs in only 15 minutes, 54 seconds of ice time — but perhaps even more striking was that everyone around Crosby essentially expected such a performance.
"It's a pleasure to have him back," said left wing Chris Kunitz, who denied Crosby an assist on his opening shift by hitting the crossbar. "From practicing, you could see his skills hadn't diminished. Right off the hop, it felt like something was going to go in for him."
Aside from Crosby's brilliance — and it's hard to ignore — his presence seemed to properly assemble all of the Penguins' parts in place. Malkin, who scored a goal and assisted on another, was able to run his line against the Islanders' second defense pairing, which might explain his ability to set up left wing Steve Sullivan's first even-strength goal of the season.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his 21st career shutout, but it will be largely forgotten, not just because the spotlight belonged to Crosby but because the Penguins were so dominant in terms of puck possession that the goalie didn't have too much work.
"Sidney deserved this night," defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. "He's finally back. He's worked so hard to get back. To have a great game like that, we're just so happy. He's a big part of our team."
No. 87 is No. 1
Sidney Crosby's return by the numbers:
2 — Goals
2 — Assists
8 — Shots on goal
2 — Times he was checked solidly
15 — Minutes of Crosby highlights shown at a Mt. Lebanon middle school to begin children's class day
15:54 — Ice time
34-19-8 — Penguins' record without Crosby past two seasons
300 — Dollars being sought by scalpers for a ticket
250 — Media credentials issued
320 — Days between games
Sidney Crosby Returns November 21, 2011
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scores twice in his return against the New York Islanders, Monday, November 21, 2011 at Consol Energy Center.
Penguins' official site: Postgame reaction