PITTSBURGH -- Hats flew from the packed stands at the Consol Energy Center. They landed on the white ice and were immediately scooped up by the Penguins' staff.
Can they give them back?
Sidney Crosby and Matt Cooke laughed on the bench because they already knew what the 18,322 inside the building would soon find out -- that Crosby didn't get a hat trick Tuesday night, and that hundreds of fans had given away their hats for nothing.
Instead, the Penguins' 186th straight sellout crowd was treated to a 2-goal, 2-assist performance from their superstar center, treated to watching him extend his point-scoring streak to 25 games in a 6-3 romp over the Atlanta Thrashers.
Headwear or not, they went home happy.
"He told me that I tipped it and I said 'yeah,' but the hats were already on the ice," Cooke told NHL.com. "I said, 'Do you want it; I'll give it to you?' He's like, 'No, I don't want it.' "
Crosby didn't need it. He already had done enough to help the Penguins temporarily extend their division lead to three points over the Philadelphia Flyers, who were playing later Tuesday in Vancouver.
With his latest big night, Crosby now has 50 points -- 26 goals and 24 assists -- in his last 25 games. He leads the NHL with 32 goals and 65 points.
He is five games away from matching Mats Sundin's 30-game point-scoring streak from 18 years ago. He's is three games away from tying Mario Lemieux for the Penguins' second-longest point-scoring streak, but he's still 21 off from Lemieux's franchise-record 46 game streak and 26 games removed from Wayne Gretzky's NHL-record 51-game scoring streak.
Crosby has now burned the Thrashers for 6 goals and 3 assists in three games this season.
"I don't need to say any secrets -- he's the best and you have to play your best game against him and we took the day off," Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec told NHL.com. "It's not a secret. He's the best. It is what it is."
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said Tuesday morning that Crosby really provides only an extra "3 percent" of the energy and enthusiasm the Penguins need at the start of the game.
On this particular night, that percentage rose significantly -- because without Crosby the Penguins would have been in a two-goal hole after 20 minutes.
Evander Kane gave the Thrashers a 1-0 lead just 47 seconds into the game, but Crosby struck back with a power-play goal (his seventh during the streak) nearly 10 minutes later. Kris Letang stopped a Thrashers' clearing attempt at the top of the zone and carried the puck into the area between the circles before finding Crosby at the right post with a diagonal pass. Crosby shoveled it in to extend his point streak just 10:34 into the game.
"He sold it big-time," Crosby said of Letang. "He faked the shot and the guy kind of had his stick over top of his and he still found a way to get that puck over. It was a really nice look from him."
Dustin Byfuglien gave the Thrashers a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later with a laser beam shot that could have ripped the netting had it not clanged off the back of the iron. But right on cue, there was Crosby again, splitting the Thrashers' defense pair of Ron Hainsey and Brent Sopel before roofing a shot over Pavelec's catching glove with 1:26 to play in the period.
"We felt fortunate that he had two goals," Bylsma said. "They did a lot of good things and kind of outplayed us. We get the power play goal and the second goal is an outstanding goal that gets us even. I think our team felt fortunate that we were back at 0-0 to start the second period. It gave us a chance to come out in the second and really take advantage. It allowed us to play a 40-minute game, which we did."
The game turned midway through the second period with Crosby watching from the bench as Cooke set up Craig Adams for a go-ahead shorthanded goal.
Crosby was back at it just nine seconds into the third period, setting up Chris Kunitz for a tap-in with a strong play and perfect pass from the right corner to extend the Penguins' lead to 4-2.
"That was a horrible goal," Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said. "Our guys broke down on that. They just chip it in and our defenseman stumbles and the forward doesn't backcheck hard enough. That's a fairly simple play that turned into a goal against."
Nevertheless, the Penguins were cruising and Crosby was having another huge night. He added to it late in the third period when he came on as the extra skater for Marc-Andre Fleury during a delayed penalty, got the puck from Zbynek Michalek at the top of the zone and rifled a shot toward Pavelec.
Cooke was stationed in front of the goalie, exactly where he was supposed to be, and managed to get his stick blade on the puck and redirect it into the left side of the net.
Hats rained down, but everybody on the ice and the Penguins bench knew it wasn't Crosby's goal.
"I think if he hadn't deflected it, it would have ended up right in the goalie's stomach," center Craig Adams said matter-of-factly.
Who cares? Two goals, two assists, two points for his team and a streak that's now at 25 straight games is more than enough for No. 87.
"I'm just disappointed for the fans that lost their hats, to be honest with you," Bylsma said. "My son's friend threw his hat on the ice tonight and I had to replace it after the game."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl