The Sabres probably will be seeing Sidney Crosby in their sleep. The game's brightest star shown brightly, going for a hat trick in a come from behind 5-4 Pens' win over Buffalo at Mellon Arena.
The hat trick was Sid The Kid's fifth career and third this season. That he scored the three within an 8:02 span speaks to the kind of special season the Penguin captain is having. With four goals in 24 hours, including a nifty shootout clincher in an exciting 2-1 home win over the Red Wings, the 22 year-old former Hart winner is now tied with San Jose's Patrick Marleau for the league lead in goalscoring. Each have 37. Amazingly, Crosby's just two away from tying his career high of 39 established in his rookie season ('05-06). The way he's finished, it looks like he'll shatter it and could compete with Marleau and archrival Alexander Ovechkin for the Rocket Richard. Ovie trails by two with Marian Gaborik (33 G) fourth and much rumored Ilya Kovalchuk (31) fifth.
Before Sid's eruption, Lindy Ruff's club had battled back from an early Mark Letestu goal scoring three straight to take a 3-1 lead almost half the contest to go. Derek Roy's power play goal and resurgent Thomas Vanek's 17th came 48 seconds apart in the first period, where they outshot Pittsburgh 12-8. The action was fast and furious as both teams traded chances, forcing both Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller to be good. It looked like the potential Olympic battle between Canada and USA would go to Miller, who's been having a great season.
Ironically, a Crosby turnover at the blueline resulted in Tim Kennedy putting Buffalo ahead by two. Clarke McArthur quickly transitioned the puck to Mike Grier, who with a three-on-two developing, made a sweet dish to Kennedy for a tip in. Kennedy came close to getting another on the next shift but the near miss loomed large. The game swung dramatically thanks to a Chris Butler hooking minor. Handed a power play, the Pens made it count with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski combining to set up a wide open Crosby at the bottom of the right circle for No.35.
With the game evolving into a track meet which didn't favor the Sabres, the Pens drew even when Jordan Staal took a Malkin pass and beat Miller with a quick one-timer, snapping a 12-game drought. Crosby took over scoring twice more in a 75 second span late in the stanza. First, he cashed in on a Miller turnover outside the net, beating a scrambling Buffalo goalie with a one-timer that trickled off him and in. He misconnected on a pass to Tyler Myers, allowing Sidney to score unassisted for a 4-3 lead with 2:30 remaining. He wasn't done, completing the trick in fine fashion by beating Miller on a breakaway. Taking a perfect Kris Letang outlet during four-on-four, Crosby came in on a two-on-one faking pass before firing home his 37th cueing raining hats everywhere.
“We made some good plays. We had an odd-man rush, we had a good bounce off the skate and he [Miller] isn’t able to get back in the net [on one goal],” Sid The Kid assessed. “If you look at the goals, you can’t really fault him on a lot. There were some really nice plays made there. I don’t think we tried anything different [against him], we always try to get second chances and that’s tough for anybody.”
“I don’t know if he’s getting better, but he’s taking advantage of the opportunities we gave him,” a disappointed Kennedy noted. “When you give a guy an open net and give a guy a 2-on-1 and then a power play, guys like that aren’t going to miss those opportunities. That’s on us. He is one of the best players in the game, but I think that we gave him a lot.”Crosby easily could've had more but a feisty Miller who tripped up Sidney early in the third, didn't allow anymore. He was sharp in the third repelling all 13 shots sent his way giving teammates a chance. While it didn't look like that would happen, a late Pens' penalty gave Buffalo a ray of light when Jason Pominville connected on the power play off a nice feed from Tim Connolly, cutting it to 5-4 with exactly three minutes remaining. It got even more interesting when Brooks Orpik went to the box allowing Ruff to pull Miller for a six-on-four. There were a couple of close calls but Fleury kept the puck out to give his team the win.
“When you have a two-goal lead, you play a tighter game than that,” Ruff acknowledged. “You don’t hand them those opportunities.”
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Jordan Staal, Pit (13th of season ends 12-game drought, 4 SOG, +1 in 22:00)
2nd Star-Thomas Vanek, Buf (PPG, assist, 4 SOG in 18:55)
1st Star-Sidney Crosby, Pit (3rd hat trick of season-35, 36, 37,5th career, 5 SOG in 20:02)