Crosby Gets 1,000 Point, Leads Pens past Jets
WINNIPEG, MB – All hail, Sidney Crosby.
Sid the Kid notched his 1,000th career point in the first period, went to finish with a goal and two assists and his goal was the winner in overtime as Crosby led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 over the Winnipeg Jets.
Playing in front of a full house at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Crosby set up Chris Kunitz at the 6:28 mark in the first period to garner his 1,000th point – the 86th player in 100 years of NHL hockey to do so — then picked up an assist on the tying goal by Phil Kessel and wrapped up his superb night with a little backhander past Connor Hellebuyck for the winning goal with just 21.1 seconds left in overtime.
With the win, Crosby and his Penguins improved to 36-13-7, second in the Metropolitan Division and headed to the post-season. With the overtime loss, the Jets fell to 26-29-5, 12th in the West. However, the Jets have played 60 games and the teams they’re chasing have played fewer – Los Angeles (60 points in 55 games), Calgary (61 points in 58 games) and Nashville (62 points in 56 games).
“We played one hell of a hockey game,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “The compete was so high, the checks got finished. The battle on pucks was real good. Lots of chances to score and good goaltending kept you from scoring. We’ll think about those chances in overtime for sure. It was a good battle. It was a really hard-fought game.”
Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead just 59 seconds into the first period and then Crosby got his 1,000th point when he set up Chris Kunitz to make it 2-0 at 6:28. He now has 369 goals and 633 assists in 757 games, six fewer games than Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr took to achieve the milestone (763).
With the Penguins up 2-0, the Jets splendid rookie forward Patrik Laine scored with 2:50 remaining in the second period to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1. Then, at 4:22 of the third period, Jets defenseman Paul Postma tied it 2-2 on a bit of a knuckler off a slap shot at 4:22 of the third.
Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien beat Pens netminder Marc-Andre Fleury on a wrap-around to give the Jets a 3-2 lead at 8:24 of the third, but Kessel tied it 3-3 on a blistering wrist shot under the bar on the power play with 6:05 remaining in regulation.
In overtime, the Jets had at least three glorious chances but Fleury, who made 44 saves, was equal to the task. Hellebuyck finished the game with 35 saves, but was caught out of position on Crosby’s winning goal.
The Penguins played with four defensemen after Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta were injured in the second period. However, the Jets played without long-term injured defenseman, Tyler Myers, and veteran Toby Enstrom, who had surgery this past week and is out for at least three more weeks with a lower-body injury.
Byfuglien scored his eighth goal of the season and logged 30 minutes and 16 seconds of ice time. He had five shots on goal and five hits. The Jets outhit the Penguins 49-38.
Laine scored his 27 goal of the season and his fourth in the past two games. Laine is now four goals behind Crosby for the NHL lead. He also moved back into a tie with Toronto’s Mitch Marner for first place in NHL rookie scoring. Laine has 21 assists and 48 points.
“It was a big disappointment, we didn’t get the two points we wanted,” said Byfuglien. “They’re a good team over there. It’s never going to be an easy night playing those guys.”
The Jets started a four-game road trip in Pittsburgh on Thursday. They’ll play game No. 2 of the journey on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST in Montreal. The game can be seen on Rogers SportsNet.
Scott Taylor, MyToba Sports
Photo by Jeff Miller