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Crosby dazzles in return

The captain had a four-point night following a 28-game absence due to injury

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Nobody scripts a return better than Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins captain finished with four points - one goal and three assists - in his return to game action in Pittsburgh's 7-3 win over Minnesota on Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena after missing exactly two months following surgery to repair a core muscle injury on Nov. 14.

It's the longest stretch he's missed due to injury since being out for nearly 11 months with concussion/neck injuries in 2011 - where he also recorded four points (two goals and two assists) in his return.

"It's hard to get surprised by what Sid accomplishes on the ice," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. "When you watch what he's been able to do, and certainly in my time here, it's just hard to get surprised. He's just so capable."

After the morning skate, Crosby said he just wanted to come in, bring some energy and make sure that he did his part - especially with the team coming off of a three-game road sweep. He more than delivered in every aspect, as he also went 11-6 in the faceoff dot in 17:53 minutes of ice time.

"I still had a couple shifts where I felt like were a little tough, but as far as getting a rhythm, it helps to get on the power play early and get your feet under you a bit," Crosby said. "I felt like we did a good job of building off of that."

On his first shift, in typical Crosby fashion, he appeared to be shot out of a cannon. He immediately set up linemate Jared McCann with a pretty pass through traffic for a scoring chance that ended up going wide.

A few minutes later, the Penguins headed to their first power play of the night, with Crosby on the top unit along with Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust and Kris Letang. And while Pittsburgh's power play has been trending in the right direction after scoring twice on Saturday in Arizona, the addition of Crosby helped take it to the next level.

He started the sequence that led to the game's first goal, taking a pass in stride through the neutral zone and gaining the offensive zone with speed. From there, Crosby dished it to Rust, who got it over to Malkin for the slam dunk. 

Crosby collected another secondary assist on Malkin's second goal of the game, which also came on the man-advantage.

"He elevates the game of everybody around him and that's a testament to him," Rust said. "Wth him out there, they've got to pay attention to one of, if the best player in the world. Having him out there and the pace he plays with and the plays he makes, it makes us that much more dangerous."

In the third period, however, is when Crosby really got to his game.

While falling to the ice after being tripped up, McCann made a nice pass over to Crosby - who toe-dragged it around Ryan Suter and sent his signature backhand towards the net. It deflected off Matt Dumba's stick and in.

A few minutes later, Crosby displayed some nifty stickhandling behind the net before threading a perfect pass through the crease to his other linemate, Dominik Simon, for the score.

"I didn't even have to call for it," Simon said. "He found me there. It was really nice. It wasn't too hard for me to put it in."

After the goal was announced, that's when the chants began.

"CROSBY! CROSBY! CROSBY!"

After the game, Crosby was named the game's No. 1 Star and was given the firefighter helmet after making a huge impact in his first game back, the Penguins' fourth straight win.

"Every player is important here in the locker room, but Sid is the captain," Malkin said. "We know how important he is. He is our leader, a great player, great teammate - you see tonight, we play so much better. We have great four lines. The power play is better. 

"We're glad he's back."

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