LONG ISLAND – Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby
has accomplished quite a bit during his first five National Hockey League seasons.
He’s already been a scoring champion, won a Hart Trophy as league MVP and last June became the youngest captain to lead his team to a Stanley Cup championship.
Crosby must once again make room on his already full mantle after capturing the 2010 Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
Crosby scored twice against the New York Islanders in the Penguins’ 6-5 overtime victory in the season finale at Nassau Coliseum to finish the season with a career-high 51 goals – tying him with Tampa Bay sophomore Steven Stamkos atop the leaderboard, one better than Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
“I was never really one for ties, but this one in particular, for sure I’ll accept a tie in this scenario,” Crosby said. “It’s not easy to score in this league at all. Steven had a great season. It was a real race down the stretch between the three guys.”
Crosby became just the second Penguin to lead the league in goal scoring, and the first since Hall of Famer and current team owner Mario Lemieux led the NHL with 69 goals during the 1995-96 campaign. Lemieux led the league in scoring on three occasions (’87-88, ’88-89 and ’95-96).
“There are a lot of great players so it is definitely an honor to join that group,” Crosby said.
Crosby became the first Penguin to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, an award which was first instituted in 1998-99.
Crosby entered Sunday with 49 goals, trailing Ovechkin and Stamkos by one. He quickly drew even when he picked up No. 50 at 17:03 of the first period.Evgeni Malkin
lugged the puck over the blue line on a two-on-one with Crosby and flipped a perfect saucer pass over the stick of New York defenseman Freddy Meyer right onto Crosby’s blade. The 22-year-old Nova Scotia native quickly fired a shot along the ice into the cage before Islanders netminder Dwayne Roloson could move from left to right.
With that goal Crosby became the first Penguins to hit the 50-goal mark since Jaromir Jagr picked up 52 goals back in 2000-01.
Crosby ensured that he would finish the season at least tied for the goal-scoring lead when he beat Roloson again 55 seconds into the second period.
Maxime Talbot drifted a pass into the neutral zone which Crosby caught up to while flying down the left seam. Crosby skated the puck to the left faceoff dot where he ripped a shot past the glove hand of Roloson on the semi-breakaway.
Crosby said he knew from the bench that Stamkos had scored into an empty net with 13 seconds remaining in Tampa Bay’s finale with Florida to once again tie the race.
told me,” Crosby said. “He said, ‘Stamkos finished his game and you guys are tied.’”
Befitting his competitive personality, Crosby, who found out about Stamkos’ score with about 10 minutes remaining in regulation, set out to try getting his 52nd.
“There’s nothing wrong with scoring a goal,” Crosby said. “There is nothing wrong with wanting to do that.”
In fact, his coaches and teammates were pushing for it.
“We were definitely trying to get him into a situation where we could get him that goal,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We were happy to see him get 50 and 51, but we were trying to get him another one.”
Crosby wasn’t able to pick up another tally, but put on quite an offensive display to come within three points of his second scoring championship.
Entering Sunday’s action the Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin led the NHL with 112 points. After a five-point effort (2G-3A) by Crosby midway through the Penguins-Islanders tilt, the Penguins superstar had cut Sedin’s advantage to three (112-109).
Bylsma said the Penguins were aware Crosby had pulled within striking distance of Sedin.
“Given his point-per-minute (pace) in the first half, it did dawn on me,” Bylsma said. “He was on a mission. We played him as such. He was in a race and we wanted to put him into a position to have a chance to do what he could. He was outstanding tonight.”
New York somehow found a way to hold Crosby scoreless the rest of the way, but not before he put the finishing touches on a season which he feels was the best of his five-year career.
“It was definitely my best year point-wise,” Crosby said. “With everything that went on with the Olympics and things like that, it was important that I kept my consistency. I was happy with my consistency.
“Hopefully my overall game was better with faceoffs and things like that. … I feel like I improved in other areas too.”