Penguins win 10th in a row in Crosby and Letang’s return

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Sidney Crosby’s second return of the 2011-12 season didn’t have the Beatles-playing-in-Shea-Stadium feel that his first one did, but the Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t complaining about the results.

They looked downright scary during much of a 5-2 win against the New York Rangers, and while Evgeni Malkin whiffed on an angry check and scored a beautiful goal, it was all about Crosby’s line and fellow returning hero Kris Letang.

You can see video of Matt Cooke scoring during Crosby’s first shift back here and watch Sid the Kid’s assist on a Chris Kunitz goal below:

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Here are the relevant stats for Crosby and Letang – who had an especially astounding night:

Crosby: one assist, +3 rating, one shot on goal, 11-10 on faceoffs, exactly 16 minutes of ice time
Letang: one assist, +5 rating, two shots on goal (plus a ding off the post), a game-high 24:22 time on ice

Matt Cooke sort of stole the show with two goals, but the Penguins roared through that game against their division foes.

A look at the Atlantic race

(1) Rangers: 95 points with 12 games left, 41 regulation/OT wins
(4) Penguins: 91 points with 13 games left, 34 regulation/OT wins
(5) Flyers: 89 points with 12 games left, 38 regulation/OT wins

The Penguins have one game left against the Rangers and three remaining against the Flyers, so the Atlantic race should be awfully interesting going down the stretch. In fact, Pittsburgh’s schedule is pretty formidable overall – but if tonight’s game is any indication – its lineup is far scarier.

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One last thought: the real winners of the Atlantic race are hockey fans, as the 4/5 matchup looks almost certainly to be a match between the second and third best team in the division. Are you getting excited about the playoffs yet?