By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 16, 2012
Sidney Crosby #87 (2nd R) of the Pittsburgh Penguins watches the puck go into the goal scored by Matt Cooke #24 (R) against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on March 15, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
NEW YORK -- And the No. 1 star in the Penguins' emphatic 5-2 win against the New York Rangers Thursday night ...
Las Vegas wouldn't have given odds on that.
"I feel bad I stole the spotlight from Sid," Cooke said.
His partially toothless smile said it all.
Sidney Crosby was back. The Penguins were complete as a team. Their winning streak is at 10 games, tied for the NHL's longest this season. And they -- not the Rangers -- look like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
"It was a lot of fun," Crosby said of his return to the lineup and those of defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin. "I don't think anyone really wants to talk too much about it. We just want to go with it. But it was awesome to have everyone together."
Crosby, playing for the first time since Nov. 5 after missing 40 games with concussion-like symptoms, had just one assist, much less production than in his first comeback Nov. 21 against the New York Islanders when he had two goals and two assists. But in some ways, this performance was better. For one thing, the level of competition was much higher. Despite the loss, the Rangers remain four points ahead of the Penguins in the Eastern Conference. For another, Crosby did a better job of controlling his emotions. There was no X-rated scream of joy that made his mother blush like there was after he scored his first goal against the Islanders.
"I just tried to calm myself a little better," Crosby said. "I didn't want to get caught up trying to do too much."
Cooke started the game on Crosby's line and had two goals, but it won't be enough to keep him there. "I hope I get more chances," Cooke said, although he knows better. "He creates so much out there and is so much fun to play with." Just say it was great for Cooke while it lasted.
Before the end of the first period, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma had Crosby skating between Steve Sullivan and Pascal Dupuis. Later, Crosby got some work on the wing for the first time since his rookie year -- with Sullivan on Jordan Staal's line. This was a night to celebrate the team's message-sending third consecutive win against the Rangers, but it also wasn't too early to start tinkering to find the best spot for Crosby with the playoffs fewer than four weeks away. "I would like to keep seeing Jordan Staal with him," Bylsma said, adding it will happen again at times in the games Saturday at New Jersey and Sunday at Philadelphia.
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