|NY Islanders 2, Pittsburgh 5|
|At CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
| 3 Stars of the Night:
Sidney Crosby (2G-2A)
Chris Kunitz (1G-1A)
Mark Letestu (1G)
PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby had waited nearly 11 months for the chance to return to the ice in a game situation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins may have needed him even more. With the Penguins hitting an early season slump, they got a spark in a big way as their captain made his much anticipated return from a pair of concussions that had sidelined him since early January.
Crosby didn't disappoint either, stunning the entire league watching as he picked up two goals and two assists to help the Pens crush the New York Islanders, 5-2, at a racous CONSOL Energy Center.
Crosby led the charge as the renewed Penguins relentlessly attacked the Islanders, outshooting them 47-23, including a 22-3 advantage in the third period as they scored three times to seal the win.
"It was just great to be back out there again," Crosby said. "There were a little butterflies, but once we got going the crowd was really behind us and we played a complete game to get a much-needed win."
After a scoreless opening frame, Michael Grabner got the Isles on the board first at 2:16 of the second, with a wrister that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury. Matt Moulson and John Tavares assisted on the goal.
The Pens rallied as Jordan Staal blasted a slap shot past Evgeni Nabokov at 8:22 of the period, coming while short handed.
Moulson scored just 47 seconds later, but the Crosby show finally started thereafter, as Sid had a hand in all four goals the rest of the way.
Sid picked up his first goal of the season with just 13 seconds left in the second, as he was out on the penalty kill and blocked a point shot and chased it down in the Islanders' zone, quickly deking and shoveling a shot over a sprawling Nabokov to send the crowd into a frenzy.
"It's an atmosphere that you don't see often," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "We have arguably the best home fans in the league, but even tonight they outdid themselves."
Mark Letestu picked up the eventual game winner at 5:57 of the third, taking a feed from Crosby and ripping a wrister over the glove of Nabokov. Crosby followed with a goal assisted by Chris Kunitz to give the Pens a two goal advantage, and Kunitz sealed the win with an empty netter assisted by Crosby and Kris Letang.
"It was a really big game," Bylsma said. "New York has played extremely well so far, so we proved ourselves tonight with a solid game. That said, we need to get the puck in the net more, four goals on forty something shots isn't going to cut it all the time."
Notes - Letang finished with an unbelievable +5 rating, and Brooks Orpik was +4 as well... Crosby finished with 8 shots and a +3 rating.
NHL.com Top 10 Stories as November Dawns
1. Toronto? That's the squad leading the Eastern Conference race one month into the campaign. The Leafs are 8-3 for 16 points, led by Phil Kessel's 13 points and seven total players with 10+ points already. And to make matters worse, Ottawa is right behind them, with 16 points and a 7-3-2 record. O Canada...
2. Same old, same old in the West: Vancouver holds the early crown in the NHL yet again, posting an 8-2-1 mark in October, closely followed by San Jose (8-2-0) (like we haven't seen that before?)
3. Shakeups in the East: Teams like Ottawa, Winnipeg, and New York (yes, the Islanders), find themselves in the playoff eight early in the campaign while the Capitals, Rangers, Sabres, Bruins, and Flyers are all looking in from the outside. That can't last all season can it?
4. Motivated Malkin: Evgeni Malkin looked like a new man coming into the season, and after a slow start has shown it, scoring a multitude of goals in the past week to push his league-leading total to 10.
5. Columbus Light Show: The Blue Jackets are lighting the twine, with Jeff Carter settling into a tie for fourth in the NHL scoring race with 15 points. Kristian Huselius is tied for second in the league with 8 goals and 16 points (third), while the Blue Jackets sit just outside eighth place in the West.
6. Stanley Cup Hangover? The Bruins have struggled mightily to start the year, with all-world goalie Tim Thomas posting a pedestrian .905 save % and 2.81 GAA, and no one scoring more than three goals for the B's. it's led them to a 3-5-2 start that sits them 13th in the East.
7. Strong Netminding: Goaltenders had a fantastic month, with 7 netminders all registering save %'s of .930 or higher, and 8 with GAAs below 2. Roberto Luongo leads the way with a .951 and 1.43, respectively.
8. Crosby Watch: Sidney Crosby has been out since early January with concussion symptoms, but has been cleared for contact and eyes a potential return sometime this month. With significant more off time between games, the team will be able to judge his progress with more certainty.
9. Flight of the Jets: With the move from much maligned Atlanta, the Jets have started anew and sit tied for the divison lead in the Southeast with Carolina, tied with 15 points apiece.
10. Coaches on the Hot Seat? With slow starts in Anaheim, Washington, Philly, and Calgary, expect to potentially see coaches on the move in near future if their team's prospects don't start looking up.
Up Next in IceTime
The Pens head to San Jose and Los Angeles for a West Coast roadtrip after having four days to regroup from their overtime loss in Toronto. Be sure to catch any news that comes out as the Pens make the quest for their fourth Stanley Cup championship.