Despite the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins have sat near the top of the NHL standings for the majority of the last six years, while the New York Islanders have been the complete opposite for basically the last 25, the two have always had fantastic tilts when they met – an old Atlantic Division rivalry continuing as a Metropolitan Division rivalry. Friday night’s contest proved to be no different. The Pens came into the game with 28 points, the Islanders with 19. The Pens in first place in the Metro, the Islanders in last place. But all that got thrown out the window once the puck dropped at the Consol Energy Center.
Pittsburgh opened the scoring early, with Chris Kunitz scoring a quick power play goal just over four minutes into the game, then adding another one less than four minutes later. In the second period, Evgeni Malkin broke his 15-game goalless streak with a beautiful play that ended with a quick wrist shot past goaltender Kevin Poulin. But the Islanders did not back down, with two goals by Thomas Vanek and another by Colin McDonald, leading to a tie game that lasted the majority of the third period.
As the end of regulation neared and overtime looked imminent, Chris Kunitz dumped the puck in deep, forechecked, and kicked the puck loose to Pascal Dupuis. Dupuis made a quick move, then feathered a pass through the defenseman’s legs to – who else – Sidney Crosby, who just happened to be in the perfect place, namely, away from any opposition, and rocketed a shot past Poulin. The goal, which came with 1:16 remaining in the third period, put the Pens up for good and gave them their 15th win of the season, extending their lead over the second-place Washington Capitals in the division.
As if an exciting game and last-effort goal by the game’s premier superstar weren’t enough, the goal was Crosby’s 78th career point against the Islanders, more than any other team he has played against. It was also the 250th goal of his still-young career, which leaves him at an astounding 250 goals and 695 points in 493 games. That 1.41 points per game average leaves him fourth on the all-time list, just behind Gretzky, Lemieux, and Bossy, and ahead of Bobby Orr, Joe Sakic, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, and hundreds of other Hall of Famers.
Just 26 years old, a healthy Crosby could still have 11 or 12 years left of what will no doubt be a Hall of Fame career. Using his current point-per-game record and using an average of 75 games played per season, Crosby could potentially (and optimistically) end up with nearly 700 goals and 2,000 points in his career.
Too often we get caught up in semantics and arguments about which great player was better than another era’s great player. Those discussions will last forever and can take place at any time.
But for now, it might be best to just sit back and enjoy watching one of the most talented players in NHL history get to work on a nightly basis.