NEW YORK, N.Y. - Sidney Crosby's return after three months of inactivity didn't hurt the chemistry of the Pittsburgh Penguins one bit as they surged closer to the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
Crosby played for the first time since another bout with concussion symptoms forced him to the sidelines Dec. 5. He got on the score sheet Thursday night with an assist as the Penguins stretched their winning streak to 10 by beating the Rangers 5-2.
Crosby was on the ice for three of Pittsburgh's goals, addressing any fears that his return might mess up the Penguins' winning ways.
"I didn't want to be that guy," the 24-year-old centre said. "I obviously knew we were playing really well. There was a little bit of adjustment, playing wing, things like that. I thought everyone played great, and I'm happy we got the win."
The Penguins say Crosby's presence provided so much more that can't be analyzed by numbers.
"I think he played a great game," said Cooke, who scored two goals while playing on a new third line with Crosby. "He draws so much attention when he is on the ice. People are worried about how good he is. That makes the players on the ice with him that much better."
The Penguins trail the Rangers by four points in the Atlantic Division.
After missing 40 games during his latest stint on the shelf, Crosby played on a third line with Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. Kennedy had two assists and NHL points leader Evgeni Malkin added a goal for the Penguins, who haven't lost since Feb. 19 at Buffalo.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to earn his ninth win during the Penguins' streak.
Carl Hagelin and Marian Gaborik scored for New York. Martin Biron stopped 27 shots, but the Rangers lost for the fourth time in six games.
PANTHERS 6, BRUINS 2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) ??? Jose Theodore stopped 24 shots and Florida Panthers scored three second-period goals to beat Boston.
Wojtek Wolski, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden, Stephen Weiss, Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson scored for the Panthers. Brian Campbell had three assists.
Florida has won three straight games and increased its lead in the Southeast Division to three points ahead of idle Washington.
Brian Rolston and Joe Corvo scored, and Tim Thomas made 23 saves for the Bruins, who gave up six goals for the second straight game.
FLYERS 3, ISLANDERS 2
UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) ??? Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves, coming within 6:30 of a fourth straight shutout, and Philadelphia beat New York for its seventh win in eight games.
Zac Rinaldo, Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell scored for the Flyers, who stayed two points behind Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Michael Grabner ruined Bryzgalov's shutout bid on his 16th goal with 6:30 to go. John Tavares scored his career-best 31st goal 35 seconds later, but New York couldn't tie it.
Bryzgalov set a new Flyers shutout streak record of 249:43, breaking the previous team record of 227:40 set by John Vanbiesbrouck from Oct. 17-27, 1999.
MAPLE LEAFS 3, LIGHTNING 1
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) ??? James Reimer made 34 saves, taking a shutout into the final minute, and Toronto beat Tampa Bay to snap a five-game skid.
Reimer stopped a number of good scoring chances, including shots by Brett Connolly, Martin St. Louis and Nate Thompson during the first. The goalie also turned aside two in-close shots by league goals leader Steven Stamkos in the second.
St. Louis spoiled Reimer's shutout bid with 26 seconds left.
John-Michael Liles, Joey Crabb and Jake Gardiner scored for the Maple Leafs, who are 3-13-2 in their last 18 games. Matthew Lombardi had two assists.
SHARKS 2, PREDATORS 1, SO
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) ????????? Ryane Clowe scored in a shootout and Antti Niemi came up with a big save to give San Jose a win over Nashville.
Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks, who ended a three-game home losing streak and drew within one point of Colorado for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Patric Hornqvist scored as the Predators snapped a three-game winning streak but gained a point on Detroit for the fourth playoff spot in the West.
Pekka Rinne made 34 saves for the Predators, while Niemi stopped 32 shots for the Sharks.
Fourteen of the past 18 meetings between these two teams have been decided by one goal.
FLAMES 4, COYOTES 1
CALGARY, Alberta (AP) ????????? Jarome Iginla scored the winner in the second period, giving him a goal in six straight games as Calgary beat Phoenix.
Iginla has eight goals and six assists during an eight-game points streak.
Sven Baertschi, Matt Stajan and Alex Tanguay also scored for the Flames (34-25-12), who have win five straight to pull within one point of the seventh-place Coyotes (35-26-11) and eighth-place Colorado (38-30-5) in the Western Conference.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored for the Coyotes and Mike Smith stopped 15 shots.
Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for his 33rd win of the season.
DEVILS 1, AVALANCHE 0, SO
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) ????????? Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise each scored in the shootout to lead New Jersey over Colorado.
After the first two shooters for the Devils connected, Martin Brodeur sealed the win with stops on Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller.
New Jersey picked up its league-leading 11th shootout win, ending Colorado's three-game winning streak. The Avalanche are 9-2 in shootouts.
Brodeur made 28 stops through overtime for New Jersey, which won its fifth in six games, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere had 33 saves for Colorado.
HURRICANES 2, BLUES 0
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) ????????? Chad LaRose and Jeff Skinner scored, and Cam Ward recorded his 200th NHL victory as Carolina beat St. Louis.
It was the 20th career shutout for Ward, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2006 when Carolina won the Stanley Cup. He made 40 saves in his fourth shutout of the season.
Brian Elliott stopped 28 shots for St. Louis, which is 13-2-2 against the Eastern Conference.
St. Louis' Andy McDonald left the game late in the second after falling and hitting his right shoulder on the boards in a collision with Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu.