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Crosby 1K: Linemates Reflect on Time With Crosby

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

Mark Recchi was there at the start.

The veteran forward scored the goal that earned Sidney Crosby his first NHL point - an assist - and then set up the rookie center for his first NHL goal.

"I remember that (first point) and I remember his first goal too," smiled Recchi, who was one of Crosby's first-ever linemates along with John LeClair.

The first career point came in Crosby's NHL debut on Oct. 5, 2005 against the New Jersey Devils at Continental Airlines Arena. He dug out the puck from the corner of the offensive zone and passed it to a driving Recchi, who re-directed it past Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur for a power-play goal.

Recchi returned the favor a few days later when the Pens returned to Pittsburgh for their home opener on Oct. 8, 2005 versus the Boston Bruins at Mellon Arena. Again on the power play, Recchi caused a scramble in front and pushed the puck over to Crosby, where he slammed it into the open net for the first of many.

"It's pretty neat, you get a chance to play with him and you knew he was something special right away," Recchi said. "And he is just a great person. He comes in and he brings you energy, when you get a young guy like that. To see him get his first couple - the assist, the goal - it's pretty neat to be part of that."

Crosby has come a long way since those days - reaching 1,000 career points with his primary assist on Chris Kunitz's goal on Feb. 16 against Winnipeg.

"It's unbelievable how quick it's come," Recchi said. "I mean, that's the scary part. And he's missed so much time and he's right there already. It's incredible. It defines him. To me, he's obviously the top player in the world right now."

Crosby has gone on to see time with a number of different linemates throughout the course of his career. Ryan Malone, Colby Armstrong, Marian Hossa, Bill Guerin, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and more recently, players like Patric Hornqvist, Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust.

A few of Crosby's early wingers reflected back on what it was like playing with him at the beginning of his career and what moments stood out to them the most during their time alongside him.

"It was a privilege to be able to play with him during his rookie year and get to see him break into the league," LeClair said. "I've never seen a kid with that kind of determination he had. His work ethic, he was determined to make himself better every day. He was a terrific inspiration to his teammates."

One play is a perfect example of that, as both Recchi and Evgeni Malkin singled it out as their favorite Crosby moment - which says a lot.

It was Jan. 7, 2007 and the Pens were hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the clock ticking down the final seconds of the second period, the Pens headed up the ice for one final scoring attempt.

"He went 2-on-1 with Mark Recchi and Mark Recchi gave him a pass to the front and he jumped," Malkin said. "I'm behind and I saw everything. I'm not just talking about his jump; I'm talking about he tried so hard to score.

"He started in the Dzone and he sees Mark Recchi a little bit in front of him. And he just started to skate so hard and go in a straight line, and I just knew he was going to score because he went so hard. He's so hungry to score and I remember he dove and just a little chip to the puck. It's an amazing goal."

While Malkin remembers how Crosby jumped into the play, Recchi remembers just how difficult it was to actually finish the play.

"I made a pass across, it was a hard pass, and maybe Mario, maybe Gretzky, they might put it in," Recchi said. "But there have been few guys who could. It wasn't the best pass, it was hard. And he'd gotten himself out and on his knees and ended up putting it home. It was a big goal for us at the time."

It's obviously not just Crosby's scoring ability that his linemates remember - it's his playmaking ability as well.

"I remember in my first game, in Florida, just remembering passes coming to me that other people just couldn't make," Guerin laughed. "So you had to be ready at all times. He could just do things that other guys couldn't. And I've played with some pretty good centers in my day.

"It's pretty funny, my first point as a Penguin was just a breakout and I think I hit him at center ice. He did the rest (laughs). I got the assist. It was pretty cool."

Patric Hornqvist joked that he's gotten a few easy goals from Crosby as well.

"His ability to see the ice, he makes plays no one even wants to try to make," he said. "Then it's right on your tape and it's in the back of the net."

Armstrong recalls one moment that had a lighter tone to it.

"One time in the dressing room when we were playing on a line together, we were both kind of saying 'I'm going to get a goal this period,'" Armstrong said. "I'm like 'okay, I'm going to get an assist (too). Sid's like, 'I'm going to get one on the backhand.' And I'm just like 'oh, okay.'"

So they went out for the period and went to work.

"I got a one-touch, bad-angle goal into a wide-open net where Sid makes it look fairly easy," Armstrong said. "But for my assist, I put it clear across the blue paint and here comes Sidney Crosby out around the other side of the net. It goes right on his backhand and he touches it into a wide-open net. And there's a picture of it actually, of me celebrating with him and he's looking up at me and laughing super hard because he's like 'On the backhand! Got it on the backhand!'

"It was kind of a cool moment no one knew about, but it was kind of funny how it worked out for him. He's done lots of tremendous, awesome stuff, but that was kind of a cool little inside personal thing. I just remember shaking my head like, of course."

And now, they're all shaking their heads at how far he's come since then. But of course, it's something everyone he's played with has expected.

"Thinking back now on how time flies, this was probably something we expected from him when he came in," Armstrong said. "It feels like just yesterday that we were sitting on the road together in Buffalo eating one of those giant chocolate cakes like you've never seen before. And here we are now with a tremendous milestone in his career."

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