CROSBY'S FOUR POINTS PROPEL PENGUINS PAST RANGERS, 5-3
Sidney Crosby’s quest for 100 points got a boost Thurday night.
The 18-year-old super rookie racked up four more points in the Penguins’ 5-3 win over the Rangers at Mellon Arena. He now stands at 97 points (38+59) and needs three points in the Penguins’ last three games to become only the second 18-year-old in NHL history to reach 100 points.
“It’d be nice to get to that. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t think my mindset has changed after tonight,” he said. “I don’t want to let up at all. I just want to finish off these three games strong.”
Crosby had a goal and three assists Thursday night. He continues to finish his remarkable rookie season as one of the best-ever in NHL history for a teenager. Crosby has 10 points (3+7) in his last four games and 17 points (6+11) in his last seven games. He has racked up at least two points in eight of his last 10 games.
“Sometimes, you can play well and come out with one point if the bounces don’t go your way. Right now, I’ve got a few bounces and, as a team, we’re playing well, so it makes it a little easier,” he said. “By no means am I going to take anything for granted and expect things to happen. I am going to go out there and play the same way. I have said it many times – if [100 points is] meant to be, it’s going to happen. If not, then it’s not going to happen. I don’t want to look back after the season and say it was something I worried about too much. I just want to finish off strong and have fun these last three games.”
Already, Crosby is the youngest player in NHL history to tally 97 points. Dale Hawerchuk surpassed the mark in the 1981-82 season, but Crosby is younger. Hawerchuck, who scored 103 points his rookie season, set the scoring record for 18-year-olds.
Crosby needs four points to top Mario Lemieux’s franchise rookie record of 100 points. Lemieux, who was 19 in 1984-85, tallied 100 points exactly.
In addition, Crosby tightened up the rookie scoring race with Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin. The 20-year-old Ovechkin had a goal and an assist Thursday night to push his rookie-leading total to 102 points (50+52). However, Crosby’s four-point outburst trimmed his deficit to five points with three games to go for both players. Crosby continues to pace all rookies in assists.
Another Penguins rookie, Colby Armstrong, continued his strong play Thursday night. He had two goals and an assist to push his point total to 35 (15+20).
Armstrong, who plays right wing on Crosby’s line, is having fun being a part of history.
“It’s fun. We try not to talk about it. I know he doesn’t want to. He just wants to focus on playing,” he said. “For him to do that, that’s pretty mentally strong for him. After all the things that this team has been through this year, but for him to have something to shoot for personally, it’s pretty good for him to stay even-keeled and mentally focused and just to play. To keep it going like that as an 18-year-old kid is incredible.”
Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar extended his torrid scoring as well. He had a goal and an assist to push his point total to 57 (11+46). He has 36 points (5+31) in his last 32 games.
Jaromir Jagr gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with a goal with 9:20 left in the first period.
Michel Ouellet responded when he roofed a shot past Kevin Weekes with 7:42 to play in the period. He took Gonchar’s cross-ice pass and lifted it over Weekes and into the net.
Crosby rifled a shot past Weekes 3:39 into the second period. He picked up a long pass off the boards and roofed the puck over the blocker of Weekes and into the far corner of the net. Armstrong and Andy Hilbert assisted on the play.
Gonchar fired in a shot from the point for a power-play goal with 7:31 left in the second period. Ryan Whitney and Crosby had assists.
Armstrong tallied a power-play goal 51 seconds into the third period. He one-timed Hilbert’s pass into the goal. Crosby added an assist on the play.
Petr Sykora scored a goal 4:02 into the third to trim the Rangers’ deficit to 4-2.
New York’s Marcel Hossa scored a power-play goal to make it a one-goal game, 4-3.
Armstrong iced the contest as he scored with 2:08 remaining. Whitney fed a pass to Crosby, who fired a cross-ice pass to Armstrong, who was situated along the near post. He brought the puck back and fired it into the net for a 5-3 advantage.
“We played well. We knew it was going to be a challenge playing this team because they are battling for points. They are a great team so I think we looked upon that as a challenge. We’re not play for the playoffs, but we’re playing with pride and that’s the way we need to keep going,” Crosby said. “We don’t want to be a pushover. We know the season is winding down and we don’t want to save it for anything – we want to leave it out there and leave a good impression. I think we all realize we are coming together as a group of guys here and everything is starting to click. When the work ethic is there, everything else seems to come.”
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 of 24 shots to earn the win in goal.
ICE CHIPS: The announced attendance was 15,155…The Penguins recognized high school state championship teams Mt. Lebanon, Pine-Richland and Quaker Valley.