Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders Live Blog: Sidney Crosby Returns
After 10 months and 16 days of waiting, the big day is finally here for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as team captain Sidney Crosby returns to the lineup after suffering a concussion during the 2010-11 season. He last played on January 5, 2011 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Crosby has missed a lot of action, and the Penguins have kept up their outstanding play even in his absence. They are currently fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 11-6-3 for 25 points.
The Pens will face off against the New York Islanders in their first game this season with Crosby. The Islanders are fifth in the Atlantic with a 5-9-3 record for 13 points and sit in last place in the Eastern Conference. The two teams have already met twice this season, with Pittsburgh winning both of the meetings.
Stay with Bleacher Report as we cover all of the latest information and touch on what other experts are saying as Crosby prepares to take the ice in front of what is sure to be a charged-up crowd at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Before I leave you all tonight, I want to give Pens fans an idea of what to expect for Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues are playing in the always-intense Western Conference and currently sit in eighth place with a record of 10-7-2 for 22 points. Last season, they beat the Penguins 1-0 behind solid play from Jaroslav Halak in goal.
The Penguins will need to play like they did tonight and not take the Blues lightly despite their record. St. Louis lost 3-2 against the Minnesota Wild in overtime on Saturday after winning three straight and face off against the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow.
The overwhelming media spotlight will be away from the Penguins come Thanksgiving Eve, so the team should be re-focused on returning to a normal routine and pushing for their next win.
I would like to thank you for joining me tonight, but this doesn't mean our discussion has to end. Please feel free to leave your observations and question in the comments section; I will read everything you have to say.
Final thoughts on the game:
If the Penguins continue firing on all cylinders and letting everyone contribute, they will get back into the top three of the Eastern Conference in a hurry. The scorers are scoring, secondary players have stepped up to the plate and Fleury seems to have finally entered his prime. There seems to be no slowing him down.
The Islanders are reeling in a hurry. Back-to-back shutouts is unacceptable for a team that has talent on both offense and defense. However, their goaltending is shaky at the moment with Evgeni Nabokov out of the lineup. It is understandable to question whether or not Rick DiPietro can help Anders Nilsson get the job done, or wonder if he will even be healthy enough.
Some final thoughts on Crosby:
The Penguins did not let themselves get swept up in all of the media attention surrounding Crosby. They realized they had a mission at hand and had to come together as a team rather than letting Crosby take control of everything in his first game back.
I did not expect anything of Crosby tonight. Had he only scored one goal or had one just one assist, I would have been happy. He passed my expectations tonight, and this was not the first time he has come back from injury acting like he had been on the ice all along.
While everyone is entitled to their opinion about who the best player in the NHL is, Crosby has continued to show why he will always be in the discussion of elite players.
Crosby finished the game with 15:54 of ice time. That is enough ice time to ease him back into action while still recognizing that he's very much a top producer on this team.
The three stars of the game are:
3. Marc-Andre Fleury (29 saves)
2. Pascal Dupuis (three assists, plus-three)
1. Sidney Crosby (four points, plus-three)
Crosby stays out to salute the fans and is seeking the game puck from tonight's matchup.He hads back to the locker room as the lights go down and the Pens prepare to announce the three stars of the game.
I don't think it's a contest as to who No. 1 will be.
The fans in Pittsburgh rise and applaud as the clock runs out. The Penguins will win 5-0 in arguably their most significant game of the season.
Fleury has earned the shutout as the Pens defeat the Islanders for the third time this season. Their other two wins were a 3-0 shutout and a 3-2 shootout win back in October.
The time clock has gone out on Root Sports with under two minutes remaining. The fans continue to chant Crosby's name as the one-minute warning is announced.
James Neal just misses putting the Pens up 6-0 with under two minutes to go.
With 2:53 to go, there's a real possibility that Crosby will get a hat trick in his first game back. Will it happen?
The Islanders are showing some signs of life, as they have failed to give up on consecutive power plays. However, it's going to be too little, too late.
Andrew MacDonald takes a quick shot, but is again denied by Fleury.
Matt Cooke, one of the strongest penalty killers on the Pens, clears the puck. The Islanders regain control, but Michalek blocks a Matt Moulson shot.
Tavares takes a shot that goes wide of the goal, and Kunitz will go to the box for taking him down. We have 5:09 remaining as the Islanders get their fourth power play of the game. The call on Kunitz is tripping.
The Islanders conclude their power play by icing the puck with six minutes remaining in the game.
Tonight's "Taste Greatness Moment" on ROOT is Crosby's first goal of the game.
Meanwhile, the Pens call a timeout. This is an interesting move given their sizeable lead, so we'll have to see what Dan Bylsma has in mind.
The Islanders are doing little more than passing the puck around, which makes it easy for the Pens to break up their play. Pittsburgh manages to clear the puck before the Islanders get it back.
Jordan Staal will now head to the box on a hooking call, and the Islanders will get 16 seconds of 5-on-3 time with 8:10 to go.
Fleury makes a glove save on Frans Nielsen with 8:45 to go. The Isles stay in their zone, but shoot the puck wide of the net.
Zbynek Michalek will go into the box for a holding call on John Tavares. The Isles will get their third power play of the game.
The pace of the game appears to have slowed a little as we hit the halfway mark of the third period. The Islanders continue to try to set up a good play as a delayed penalty comes up for the Penguins with 9:54 remaining.
Michael Grabner, a finalist for last year's Calder Trophy fires a shot on Fleury, but the Penguins netminder goes down in a split and makes a glove save with 12:27 remaining in the second.
As ROOT Sports shows Crosby lifting the Stanley Cup in 2009, I have to ask: Do you think Crosby's return gives the Penguins a greater chance of winning the Cup? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Arron Asham lays a hit on Travis Hamonic, which causes a pane of glass to dislodge from the boards at Consol Energy Center. We will take a break for officials to fix the problem with 14:12 remaining in the game.
If the Islanders cannot get on the board, this will be their second consecutive shutout loss. They lost to the Boston Bruins 6-0 on Saturday night. It's a disappointment for a team that was supposed to be improved this year.
Tyler Kennedy hits the puck off the goal post, narrowly missing a chance to keep crushing the Islanders. However, with the lead the Pens have, I don't think Kennedy is going to lose any sleep over it.
Crosby scores his second of the night to put the Pens up 5-0 at 2:10 of the third. The puck bounced off Nilsson before going into the goal.
It looks like Kunitz will get the assist on the goal as the fans once again begin their Crosby chant.
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