Dan Bylsma admitted to having a feeling as he walked into Mellon Arena Saturday night and saw boxes of hats that were to be handed out to the fans for that night's game against the New York Rangers.
"When I walked into the building and saw the free hats, the thought did cross my mind that, hopefully, somebody would get a hat trick to see those things on the ice."
Bylsma got his wish in spades as Sidney Crosby completed a hat trick with a third-period goal than made the Mellon Arena ice look like the aftermath at the mall following Black Friday.
Yep, hats everywhere. And then some.
"I thought it was a little weird everybody had the same hat in the rink," Crosby said. "It was a fun night to do it. It was fun to get a hat trick, especially tonight."
Ironically, Crosby has felt the heat in some quarters because he "only" has 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 27 games. Following the hat trick, Crosby's teammates were emphatic that whatever "concern" there was over his scoring wasn't coming from them.
"It's not like he was playing brutal for us," defenseman Sergei Gonchar told Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Everybody has such high expectations for him. When he scores one or two goals, nobody thinks it's enough.
"I thought he's been playing very well for us overall. Maybe not as much scoring, but at the same time, he's done a lot of good things."
By the end of the 8-3 win against the Rangers, Crosby had 3 goals and 2 assists, plus five shots in 19:59 of ice time. He cited the contributions of teammates like Evgeni Malkin (1 goal, 1 assist), Gonchar (2 assists), Kris Letang (2 assists), Alex Goligoski (2 assists) and Brooks Orpik (2 assists) with spreading the scoring around.
"That (diversified offense) is what we need," Crosby told Molinari. "That's how we get success."
Rangers look for answers -- A 5-1 loss in Tampa Bay Friday, followed by the 8-3 setback against the Penguins Saturday, had the New York Rangers reeling heading into a rematch with the Penguins Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I thought we definitely competed hard, but against a team like this, penalties hurt us," Rangers forward Ryan Callahan said after the loss in Pittsburgh. "At the end of the day, we've got to get better results. This League is about winning."
"Sooner or later, I think the locker room has to take some ownership as far as how we're playing," coach John Tortorella said.
One player who seemed to have a lot of responsibility heaped on his shoulders was forward Enver Lisin, who didn't get off the bench for the entire game in Pittsburgh. Brian Boyle was scratched after the loss in Tampa Bay as well.
"If I had someone else here, I would have taken him out of the lineup," Tortorella said of Lisin. "It's part of a process of a player trying to understand what we're trying to do. There needs to be a two-way street."
After playing well over the first 40 minutes, goalie Stephen Valiquette took quite a beating in the third.
"I feel bad for the guy because I thought he gave us a chance in the first two periods," Tortorella said of Valiquette. "Unfortunately, it's a 60-minute hockey game. He struggled."
As did a lot of his teammates.
Feeling old -- Martin Brodeur now has played more minutes than any goalie in NHL history, having surpassed Patrick Roy's mark over the weekend. Brodeur now has over 60,000 minutes and counting in his career.
So Marty, how does it feel?
"It's a big number," Brodeur laughed. "It's hard to feel young when you've got 60,000 minutes."
Help on the way -- The Devils were looking forward to welcoming defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Rob Niedermayer back to the ice Monday. The two have been a part of the long list of injured players who have been sidelines in New Jersey.
"We feel more than likely Johnny Oduya and Robbie Niedermayer will be practicing Monday if everything goes according to schedule. It's always subject to change," Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello told Rich Chere of the (Newark) Star-Ledger.
Oduya, Paul Martin, Niedermayer and Jay Pandolfo all skated at Prudential Center Saturday morning, but Pandolfo and Martin remain out indefinitely.
Hard lessons for Isles -- The New York Islanders knew what they had to do Saturday afternoon in New Jersey -- be disciplined. After beating the Penguins at home Friday night, the Isles could have enjoyed a very nice weekend, but a lack of discipline proved to be costly in Jersey as the Devils bounced back from a 1-0 deficit to steamroll the Islanders, 6-1.
"Discipline is everything," Isles goaltender Martin Biron told reporters after the loss. "I think today that was the difference. You know New Jersey is going to be a disciplined hockey team, waiting and clogging it up. You have to match their discipline level and we didn't."
The Islanders took too many penalties, allowed the Devils odd-man rushes and generally made the little mistakes that cost you against a team that is successfully keeping errors to a minimum.
"It's a chess match -- whoever makes the mistake first, they're going to try and capitalize on that," Nate Thompson said. "We made way too many mistakes and they made us pay."
Lean times for Flyers -- With only one win in their last six games heading into a home game with the Vancouver Canucks Thursday, the Philadelphia Flyers are looking for answers for the doldrums that have resulted in a 6-3 loss in San Jose, a 3-1 loss in Phoenix, a 5-4 loss in Colorado, a 2-1 win over the Islanders, a 4-2 home loss to Buffalo and a 1-0 loss in Atlanta.
Saturday's loss in Atlanta ended a 14-game winning streak against the Thrashers dating back to early in the 2005 season. The Flyers struggled on the power play in the game, going 0-for-4 after taking the collar in five chances against the Sabres.
"We're creating enough good chances as when we were winning, but they're not resulting in goals," coach John Stevens told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We have to find a way to dig in and sharpen up a bit. … Our power play has completely dried up."