Sidney Crosby Hat Trick Bedevils New Jersey

The Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back from Friday’s loss to the Buffalo Sabres by posting a 4-1 win against division rival New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.  Team Captain Sidney Crosby netted 4-points (3G, 1A) and proved that he is returning to form by scoring his second career hat trick, his first on home ice.  In the last few games, Sidney Crosby has been playing with the fire and intensity that hasn’t been evident since before he went down last season with the high ankle sprain.  In the words of Devil’s goaltender Scott Clemmenson, Crosby is an elite player who is “scary good” when he outworks everyone on the ice.  Crosby has exploded for 9-points (6G, 3A) in his last 3-outings, and is ranked 2nd in the league with 34-points (13G, 21A) behind Evgeni Malkin who has 39-points (10G, 29A).  Improving their record to 14-6-3, the Penguins are in 5th place in the league with 31-points. 

In the 1st, it took just a little over a minute for the Penguins to get on the board.  AFter splitting the defense, Sidney Crosby eluded a poke-check and backhanded the puck through the Devils’ netminder Clemmenson to take the 1-0 lead.  “The guy never gives up on the play, that’s for sure,” Clemmensen said after the game.  Miroslav Satan and Hal Gill picked up the assists on Crosby’s goal.  The Penguins went on to outshoot the Devils 16-12 in the first period, but went 0-for-2 on the powerplay.  They managed to kill off penalties to Petr Sykora (high stick) and Mark Eaton (holding). 

In the 2nd period, the Penguins finally managed to convert on a powerplay opportunity at 12:34.  After keeping the puck in at the blueline, Evgeni Malkin moved the puck up to Tyler Kennedy who made a tremendous blind pass between his legs to Sidney Crosby.  Crosby dished a pass over the sticks of 2 New Jersey defenders onto the tape of Petr Sykora who was posted on the empty side of the net.  Sykora popped the puck into the net, beating Clemmenson.  Then at 11:29 while skating 4-on-4, Evgeni Malkin blocked a cross-ice pass in front of the Devils’ net and then in a diving play poked the puck to Sidney Crosby on of the side of the net.  Crosby stopped the puck with the back of his stick, moved it to his forehand and chipped it into the net to make it 3-0.  The Penguins again outshot the Devils 12-8, were 1-for-2 on the power play, and 1-for-1 on the kill. 

In the 3rd period, the Devils picked up their game and tried to put pressure on the Penguins.  With the Penguins a bit sloppy in their own end, Mike Rupp took advantage of Rob Scuderi’s mishandling of the puck in front of his own net and laced into the corner of the net, beating Dany Sabourin.  Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta had the assists.  But that was all that the Devils were able to get past Dany Sabourin.  With Clemmonson pulled early for the extra attacker, Sidney Crosby again split the defense and fell to the ice while getting hooked from behind as he steamed towards the empty net.  He still managed to use on hand on his stick as he was sliding down the ice on his stomach to redirect the puck into the empty net for the Hat Trick and the final 4-1 tally.  It was one of the more spectacular empty net goals I have seen.  “It’s nice to do it at home,” Crosby said after the game. “It’s something that you don’t know when it’s going to happen again, so it’s nice.”  Evgeni Malkin and Mike Zigomanis had the assists on the play.  The Penguins were outshot 10-7 in the final frame. 

Tyler Kennedy led all players with 7-shots on net.  Sidney Crosby had 6-shots on goal and netted 4-points (3G, 1A).  Petr Sykora had 5-shots on net and 1-goal.  Evgeni Malkin picked up 2 more assists and had 4-shots on net.  Dany Sabourin stopped 29-of-30 shots for an impressive performance with a 0.967 save percentage.  Evgeni Malkin led with 22:54 of ice time across 23 shifts.  Sidney Crosby had 20:14 in ice time and 23 shifts.  Kris Letang led all defensemen with 21:53.  Mike Zigomanis was once again impressive in the faceoff circle winning 11 of 14 for 79% effectiveness.  Pascale Dupuis was a healthy scratch, while Phillipe Boucher and Marc-Andre Fleury were out with injury. 

The Penguins will take a few days off before hitting a 3-game road trip with back to back games against the New York Rangers on Wednesday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, before heading to Ottawa to take on the Senators on Saturday.

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