VIDEO: Crosby scores 41st goal, spears O’Reilly below the belt

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For the most part – not with everyone, but with many – gripes about the more … um, abrasive side of Sidney Crosby‘s game have subsided. Every now and then, the superstar Pittsburgh Penguin shows that less appealing aspect, however.

Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres really put the opposite ends of the spectrum on display.

On one hand, you have an ugly moment, as Crosby appeared to spear Ryan O'Reilly in the groin (see video above).

On the other hand, Crosby scored his 41st goal of 2016-17 in dramatic fashion, blazing by the Sabres for what was more or less a one-on-all tally:

You may notice that “ROR” was on the ice for that moment.

Crosby regains goal lead, tied for points lead after hat trick

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PITTSBURGH — With his three goals in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon Sidney Crosby became the first player in the NHL to hit the 40-goal mark this season.

It also put him back into sole possession of first place in the NHL’s goal scoring race (now three goals ahead of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand) and moved him back into a tie with Connor McDavid for the points lead with 80. Because Crosby has more goals than McDavid (15 more to be exact, and in seven fewer games) Crosby would also be the Art Ross Trophy winner if the season ended today. It is only the second time Crosby has topped the 40-goal mark in his career, while he has a legitimate shot to win his second goal scoring crown and his third Art Ross Trophy.

The fact he is in a position to potentially lead the league in both categories is pretty incredible when you consider that it has only been done three times since 1990 (Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08, Jarome Iginla in 2001-02 and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96), and Crosby is currently doing it having missed six games this season due to injury.

Given the way he and his line are rolling right now it probably wouldn’t be wise to bet against him doing it.

With the Penguins’ lineup crushed by injuries at the moment (Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Carl Hagelin, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, Olli Maatta and Bryan Rust all missed Sunday’s game) the line of Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary has been carrying the offense in recent weeks as they have now won seven of their past nine games (7-1-1) since March 3.

After Sunday’s game Mike Sullivan understatedly pointed out that “Sid is the glue that holds that line together” and that they have “played great for us.”

Just how great have they been?

Well, as a group that line has combined to score at least two goals in four of the Penguins’ past five games, accounting for nine of the team’s 14 even-strength goals during that stretch.

All three of them have contributed all three points (the goal and both assists) on seven of those goals. Even when they are not putting the puck in the net they just have the look of an unstoppable force right now and are creating multiple chances on almost every shift.

Sheary has been a fit on Crosby’s wing for most of the season, but the addition of Guentzel, who said on Sunday that he is just trying to make the most of his opportunity on that line, has taken it to an entirely new level.

Their speed, immediate chemistry and ability to get on the puck and create havoc for opposing defenses is pretty much unmatched anywhere else in the NHL right now.

For most of Crosby’s career there’s always been this never-ending question of as to his wingers are going to be. Right now, that question seems to have a pretty definitive answer.

 

Video: Crosby closes on Marchand in Rocket Richard Trophy race (Updated: They’re tied)

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Quite a race right now for the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy, awarded each year to the league’s leading goal scorer.

Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins currently leads the NHL with 37 goals, but he has the night off. Sidney Crosby entered Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils only two goals back of Marchand, but No. 87 has since closed the gap to one.

Crosby scored goal No. 36 for his season, as he one-timed a perfect pass from Mark Streit during a late first-period power play. That capped a wild opening 20 minutes, as the two teams combined for five goals.

There are currently 13 players, including rookies Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews, with 30 goals or more, so this race is wide open right now.

Updated: Crosby scored into an empty net in the third period, giving him 37 goals, which ties Marchand for the league lead. The Penguins won 6-4.

Interesting Penguins tidbits on Sullivan’s drive, Malkin’s bond with Crosby

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The Pittsburgh Penguins tweeted out some really interesting tidbits about two driving forces for their success: 1) the bond between Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and 2) Mike Sullivan’s drive to get results.

Pens Inside Scoop has the story, mostly from Malkin’s perspective, of two players who’ve known each other from their early-teens … and if Malkin has anything to say about it, two players who will remain teammates for their entire careers.

“I hope we play our whole lives here,” Malkin said. “I don’t want to move to a different city …”

Crosby provided similar thoughts, but Geno really illustrated the bromance most beautifully in that piece.

Speaking of beautiful, consider the lengths Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan goes to “take notes,” via this in-depth Boston University profile:

It’s a mind that never seems to stop, as seen in the coffee table in the TV room in Sullivan’s Duxbury, Mass., home—the top is a whiteboard, festooned with the blue lines, face-off circles, and goal creases of an ice rink. When a game is on, Sullivan is likely to pull out a dry-erase marker and diagram a defenseman’s mistake or a winger’s poor breakout execution. “He’s constantly analyzing with Xs and Os,” says his younger brother, Brian Sullivan, a former college hockey player, for Northeastern University. “He eats it and sleeps it.”

Having a coffee table designed for note-taking? Yeah, that’s about as close as you can get to actually eating and sleeping hockey. Someone needs to get photographic evidence of that bad boy.

… Now, as far as getting your own? Maybe that wouldn’t be the healthiest approach.

Crosby, Penguins deliver blow to Flyers’ playoff chances in Stadium Series

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PITTSBURGH — The first time the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game at Heinz Field, Sidney Crosby was on top of the NHL and having one of the most dominant offensive seasons in recent history. That was the game he was on the receiving end of the Dave Steckel hit that started the chain of events that basically cost him two of the prime years of his career.

The Heinz Field experience was significantly better for him and the Penguins this time around.

Crosby opened the scoring midway through the first period with his league-leading 34th goal of the season — finishing a slick feed from rookie forward Jake Guentzel — to help lead the Penguins to a 4-2 in the 2017 NHL Stadium Series game.

“We were thrilled for him,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan when asked about Crosby scoring a goal in his return to Heinz Field.

“I am sure the experience of coming back here probably brought back some memories that he probably would like to forget. So to have a night like tonight, and an opportunity to play in such an exciting venue and start the game off the way he did, it did probably just helped him put that experience behind and move forward. I thought he played a solid game, his line was really good all night long and he scored a huge goal for us.”

Crosby’s goal is only part of the story in this one.

Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen and Chad Ruhwedel also scored goals in the win, while Matt Murray stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced.

First, for Pittsburgh, it was a huge win given the status of an undermanned defense that was playing without three of its top players. With Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta already sidelined, they were also without Kris Letang on Saturday night due to an upper body injury that currently has him listed as day-to-day. That meant they had to rely significantly on their depth.

Ron Hainsey, playing in his debut with the team after being acquired in a trade earlier this week from the Carolina Hurricanes, played more than 20 minutes in the win, including more than three minutes on the penalty kill. They also received a huge goal from Ruhwedel in the third period to help put the game away.

It wasn’t a flawless effort by the group (37 shots against illustrates that) but considering who was out of the lineup and the situation they were facing it was a huge performance to remain ahead of the New York Rangers for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and improve their record to 7-1-3 in their past 11 games.

Things are not quite as optimistic for the Flyers at the moment.

The loss on Saturday is a pretty damaging blow to their already fading playoff chances as they remain five points out of a playoff spot — with three teams ahead of them — with only 21 games to go.

They are also just 9-16-4 in their past 29 games since their 10-game winning streak ended on Dec. 14.

“It’s a tough result, walking away,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol after the game. “It’s a pretty close, tight hockey game where I thought our team played well, battled extremely well, and did a lot of good things but we walk away with the wrong result.”

That has happened a lot lately for the Flyers.

So why are they not getting the results? Well, the problem on Saturday was a familiar one for the Flyers — goaltending and defensive zone breakdowns.

Crosby’s goal to open the scoring was the result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage that allowed the game’s best offensive player to be left wide open along the side of the net for an easy one-timer. Even though Michal Neuvirth didn’t have much of a chance on that play, he didn’t exactly play a strong game, allowing four goals on 29 shots.

The Matt Cullen goal to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the third period was a particularly tough one for Neuvirth to give up.

It is already the 10th time in 24 games this season he has given up at least three goals in a game, while his save percentage on the season remains well below the .890 mark. For a goalie that was one of the best values in the league last season in terms of performance and salary cap hit, it has been a massive regression this season.

Even though the results are not going their way at the moment Hakstol remains convinced the team is doing the right things and that the key to turning things around is just sticking with what they are doing.

“Couple little things within the game tonight,” said Hakstol. “We haven’t been able to score a whole lot. There has been a lot made of that, and fairly so. You look at the opportunities tonight, the type of opportunities we generate were pretty reasonable. You have to stick with it. We have gone through a tough stretch here, but for the vast majority we have played some pretty good hockey and we need to stick with it. We have to stay together as we have and we have to keep pushing the envelope.”

The Flyers are back in action on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.