The Pittsburgh Penguins took down the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2 on Saturday night, but the team’s victory was not the focal point of the evening. Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby reached his 1000th NHL game, and congratulations were in order for the superstar, who capped off another great night for the team.
The Pens did not have their best game against the Isles, however, small things have started to click for the team, who scored the first goal of the game, midway through the second period courtesy of a Kris Letang power play goal, assisted by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The teams’ powerplay, although still continuing to struggle, has made small improvements recently, a positive sign for their special teams. Just three minutes later, Jordan Eberle leveled the scoreline after being left alone in front of the net, rounding Tristan Jarry to score.
Just 53 seconds into the third period, Brock Nelson gave the Isles their first lead of the hockey game from a point shot that Jarry could not track through traffic. The lead was short-lived as Mike Matheson got his first as a Pen just seven minutes later after a Teddy Blueger feed found him open in the slot to beat Semyon Varlamov blocker-side. Matheson has continued to look sharp on the Pens blueline since his return from injury after several disappointing performances to start the year. Midway through the third, Kris Letang unloaded a heavy wrist shot from the point that beat Varlamov through traffic to take the lead. Crosby recorded his second assist of the game on the goal. That goal would hold up and prove to be the winner.
Although the Pens were outshot by a large margin (35-18), a stellar performance from Tristan Jarry between the pipes was the difference. The netminder has been heavily criticized this year after a trend of inconsistent performances but was magnificent in goal against the Isles. He made key saves in crucial moments to backstop the team to their ninth victory of the season.
From Sid the Kid to Sid the Vet? Well…it doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it. Crosby has grown and developed into one of the greatest players of all-time. His storied career has been spent entirely with the franchise that drafted him, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Former teammates, coaches, friends, family, and rivals were all apart of the ceremony as they made short videos congratulating number 87. The team all wore their Captain jersey during warmup and even went as far as copying his pregame warmup routine, giving Sid a chuckle on his special night.
Crosby on his team wearing his jersey in warmups: “I didn’t see that one coming. It’s a little odd when you first see it, but it reminds you how special the night is.”
It was noticeably difficult for the 33-year-old to remain composed during the pregame ceremony as he became teary-eyed while watching the tribute.
“Definitely hard to keep it together. Didn’t help when I looked over and saw Geno having a hard time too,” said Crosby about handling his emotions. “It’s a special day regardless of the outcome, but it makes it so much better when you win. Everything from the guys, the ceremony in the room, and on the ice, I’m just completely spoiled today. It was a pretty awesome experience. It’s always a day I’ll remember.”
Kris Letang, who had one of his best games of the season, would not give up names as to who planned to copy his Captain’s pregame routine but when asked about who will keep the goal pucks said: “Crosby is going to be the one that keeps them. It’s his night. It’s a special one…I’m just going to keep my warmup jersey.” Letang is among a number of Penguins teammates who took part in the tribute video.
Alongside Letang, Guentzel, Rust, and Malkin, many former Penguins teammates made short videos for Sid, including Trevor Daley, Marc-Andre Fleury, Mark Recchi, Brooks Orpik, Carl Hagelin, Sergei Gonchar, Nick Bonino, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Bill Guerin, Phil Kessel, Ruslan Fedotenko, Tyler Kennedy, Max Talbot, and of course, Mario Lemieux. Although all were different in what they talked about, the common theme was Crosby’s professionalism, character, leadership, and determination. Aside from his incredible stats and resume, his attitude is what made him such a great player and the ultimate Captain. The idol of this generation, he has consistently been the most dominant player in the league throughout his entire career. The longevity of his success is ultimately what leaves him one step above many other legends.
Undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the former first overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has put up a remarkable 468 goals and 810 assists in 1000 career games. To top that off, the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia-native has 189 career playoff points in 168 career playoff games. He is a two-time Art Ross trophy winner, a two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, a two-time Ted Lindsay award winner, a two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, a two-time Mark Messier NHL Leadership award winner, and a two-time Conn Smythe trophy winner in back-to-back years. If that isn’t quite good enough, he has won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins and has Captained team Canada to two Olympic Gold Medals. That resume is astonishing and already more than worthy of a Hall of Fame induction, and the crazy part is, at just 33 years of age, he’s not done yet.
The Pens and their Captain will be back in action tomorrow night as they take on Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena at 7 PM EST.