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Penguins enjoy Sid's welcome-back party

by Brian Compton / NHL.com

Sidney Crosby returned to the Pens' lineup last night in their 2-0 win over Tampa.
Watch Sidney Crosby back in action
Some random thoughts before agents begin sending resumes to Craig Anderson:

Rust? What Rust? – Sidney Crosby said he felt a little rusty after Tuesday night’s 2-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Pittsburgh Penguins’ captain sure didn’t show any rust.

Crosby was his usual dazzling self basically from the drop of the puck at the St. Pete Times Forum, as he created a ton of scoring chances before assisting on Maxime Talbot’s game-winning goal with time winding down in regulation.

“It’s huge having him back,” Talbot said of Crosby. “You saw him on the first shift, he had a great opportunity. He brings so many more scoring opportunities for our team. It’s great for everybody to have him back.”

It’s also great to see Marc-Andre Fleury return with a vengeance. The No. 1 selection from the 2003 NHL Entry Draft stopped all 35 shots he faced Tuesday night for his third shutout of the season. Fleury – who, like Crosby, suffered a severe ankle injury – is has stopped 66 of 68 shotsin his first two starts since returning to action.

Afterward, though, Fleury passed the credit to his captain.

''He's the best player in the League,'' Fleury said of Crosby. ''Having him on our side is always a big help.''

Tampa Bay surely is in need of help. Tuesday’s loss dropped the Lightning to 1-6-1 during their last eight games.

"We played good enough to lose," coach John Tortorella said.

I don’t know what’s more confusing … Tortorella’s quote, or the ending from Planet of the Apes.

Anyway, welcome back, Sidney. You were missed.

No Time To Get Comfortable – Colorado Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville wanted to work Peter Forsberg into action slowly as the star center gets re-acclimated to life in the NHL.

And then the Avs played a game.

Sakic

"There’s no time to break him in slowly,” Colorado captain Joe Sakic said after the Avs earned a 2-1 victory Tuesday night against the Vancouver Canucks at the Pepsi Center. “Not when the points are valuable and you need to win hockey games.”

That’s why Forsberg wound up receiving close to 20 minutes of ice time. In the end, it was tough to tell that No. 21 hadn’t played in an NHL game in nearly a year.

“I was just happy to be out there playing,” Forsberg said after his first game since he and the Nashville Predators were eliminated from the playoffs last April. “I wanted to get a goal or an assist — but we won, and that’s what matters.”

The Avalanche jumped into a tie with Nashville for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference with the win, two points ahead of the Canucks. As long as Forsberg remains healthy, is there any doubt his presence will help the Avs down the stretch?

“He played a lot,” Quenneville said. “Probably more than I anticipated before the game. I asked him about the halfway mark how he felt, and he said he felt good. I thought he was very effective, very daring. It’s fun watching him play.”

Something tells me the Canucks don’t feel the same way.

Dubielewicz

Dubie Does It Again – He doesn’t get to play very often, but Wade Dubielewicz usually comes up big when called upon.

Such was the case Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, as Dubielewicz outperformed Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-3 win against the Rangers.

Dubielewicz -- who helped the Isles reach the playoffs in 2007 by winning the last four games of the regular season -- made 27 saves for the victory. Only Nigel Dawes beat him in the shootout, which was won by Jeff Tambellini in Round 6.

''It's my job,'' Dubielewicz said. ''If I don't do it, somebody is breathing down my neck that will.''

With the win, the Isles pulled within three points of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They blew a 3-1 lead – and allowed their third shorthanded goal in four games – before winning in the shootout.

Just an idea here, but maybe the Islanders should think about declining penalties from now on?

Two Good – Craig Anderson did it again Tuesday night.

Anderson

Two days after stopping all 53 shots he faced in a 1-0 win against the Islanders, the Florida Panthers’ “backup” goaltender went 40-for-40 in a 1-0 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins.

Just when we thought the Panthers were out of the playoff race, their No. 2 goalie has other plans.

''These last two games have just been terrific,'' said Anderson, who has allowed just one goal on the last 134 shots he’s faced. ''As much as you want to say it's just one guy, it's been everybody. The little things you might not notice, I recognize, the coaches recognize, and the other guys recognize what guys are doing. We're making sure we’re getting the pucks out, we're making big blocks, we're making sure the puck doesn't get to the net, and a lot of the time I am seeing the shots, which is a credit to the guys in front of me.''

Gaining Ground – The Buffalo Sabres got the win they so desperately needed Tuesday night. Derek Roy and Jason Pominville scored 18 seconds apart in the third period as the Sabres pulled within a point of No. 8 Philadelphia with a 5-2 win at the Wachovia Center.

Buffalo has a chance Wednesday night to pull ahead of the Flyers when it hosts the Washington Capitals at HSBC Arena.

''They would be up by five points if we don't win this one -- and now we're one point behind them,'' Pominville said. ''I mean, this is a big game and I'm definitely excited that we came up with two points but, again, we have another big test (against Washington).''

After watching the Caps pulverize the Bruins on Monday night, the Sabres should study for this big test like those kids in Lean On Me.

Brodeur

Marty All The Time – Martin Brodeur continues to show why he’s one of the greatest goalies to ever play this great sport of ours.

The future Hall-of-Fame netminder practically did handstands in his crease Tuesday night, as he finished with 41 saves to lead his New Jersey Devils to a 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We played pretty well, outside of a few minutes there in the second period and, obviously, Marty made some big saves at big times, which you need in this League," Devils coach Brent Sutter said.

New Jersey held a 2-1 lead before pulling away in the third on goals by David Clarkson and Zach Parise – even though the Leafs outshot the Devils by an 18-11 margin in the final 20 minutes.

"Classic New Jersey Devils game, it's 2-1, you open up your game and they pounce on you and capitalize," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said.

Seriously. Only Carson Daly’s jokes are more predictable.

A Long Time Coming – Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks pulled out a win in Minnesota.

Behind strong goaltending from Patrick Lalime (28 saves), the Blackhawks won in Minnesota for the first time since March 29, 2002, with a 4-2 win against the Wild.

Chicago has won eight of 11 games and remains only six points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Lalime

"Every game is big for us now," Lalime said. "This time of year, we're very fortunate that we've put together a little streak here."

Another big game comes Chicago’s way Wednesday night, as the red-hot Anaheim Ducks visit the United Center.

So Much For That – Just when the Edmonton Oilers were feeling confident on home ice, the Nashville Predators showed up and ruined everything.

Martin Erat scored a natural hat trick as the Predators chased Mathieu Garon in a 5-1 win against the Oilers at Rexall Place. Edmonton had won its last seven games at home and four in a row overall.

But Erat put a stop to all of that.

"To watch a guy like that get a hat trick is something special," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He's a special player and we rely on him for a lot of our offense. And he really contributed tonight."

So did goalie Dan Ellis, whose only blemish was a goal by Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert at 5:45 of the second period. Ellis stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first period as Nashville jumped to an early 3-0 lead. He finished with 29 saves overall.

Ellis

"We have had a lot of success against Edmonton, I don't know what the cause of it is," Ellis said. "I think it just comes down to really executing when we do play them."

Nashville, which is tied with Colorado for the final Western Conference playoff spot, continues its six-game road trip Thursday night at Vancouver.

Mighty Miikka – It’s been a topsy-turvy season for Miikka Kiprusoff, but the Calgary Flames’ netminder was brilliant Tuesday night.

Kiprusoff, who played one period out of six on a recent two-game road trip, stopped all 39 shots he faced in a 1-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The victory has the Flames tied with the Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division lead.

“He was our best player tonight," Calgary coach Mike Keenan said, "Everybody in the building knows that. Certainly he made the difference for us. He kept us in the game when they were really pushing early, and then he was just stellar throughout the game from start to finish."

The Blue Jackets’ power play, meanwhile, was horrid from start to finish. Columbus went 0-for-6 with the man advantage and hasn’t scored in its last 27 opportunities.

Nash

"Our power play was not good enough tonight, especially on the 5-on-3," Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash said. "We didn't even get one really great scoring chance, and that's unacceptable."

Something Had To Give – In a game between two struggling teams, the St. Louis Blues got back on track Tuesday night with a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings.

The victory got the Blues out of an 0-5-1 hole, while the loss was the Kings’ fifth straight and seventh in eight games.

How bad has St. Louis struggled? Well, Tuesday marked the first time the Blues have scored three goals in a game since Feb. 14. They’ve been shut out twice since then.

"We limit a team to two goals, and we've done that in 11 of the last 13 games," St. Louis coach Andy Murray said. "It's amazing that our win totals have not been better than that, but tonight, we managed to score three goals."

Just in time, too. The Blues begin a nine-game road trip Wednesday night that includes stops in Detroit, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Anaheim, Montreal, Ottawa and Chicago.

Gee whiz. The only city missing is Boston, where the Blues would have been asked to play the Red Sox and Patriots.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.



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