NEW YORK, New York – Sidney Crosby
’s second comeback this season didn’t have the same dramatic flare as his two-goal, four-point performance Nov. 21 against the New York Islanders, but it was just as significant.
Crosby chipped in two assists (a second assist was later added after an official review) and logged a solid 16 minutes as the Penguins came away with a big late-season victory, 5-2, over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Thursday night.
Most importantly, Crosby, who missed the last 40 games with concussion-like symptoms and a neck injury, was feeling good following the intense competition.
“I felt pretty good,” Crosby said. “There is still some rust there and that will take time. I felt a little more comfortable as the game went on. To get into a game like that, a big situation with the intensity, I was happy to get that first one over with and keep going.
“I felt like (16 minutes) was a pretty good amount. That’s something that will be a progression and we’ll see how it goes.”
On his assist, Crosby carried the puck low along the goal line in the second period. In classic fashion he stiff-armed defender Marc Staal to protect the puck on his stick. He then found Chris Kunitz
in the far circle. Kunitz’s shot went over the shoulder of goaltender Martin Biron to make it a 4-2 game.
“He made a great shot. I was able to generate a little bit and our power play did some good things,” Crosby said. “You always want to build when you miss this much time. You look at those things and try to build off of them.”
Crosby showed no hesitation from the first shift to the last shift. He skated hard in the corners and battled for pucks along the wall. Crosby didn’t engage in any heavy hitting, but that was part of his plan.
“Last (comeback) I probably was trying to test myself more than I needed to,” Crosby said. “Tonight I wasn’t really looking for it quite as much. I feel like I was able to do that leading up to the games. I didn’t have to go looking for it. I wasn’t trying to avoid it, but I wasn’t as quick to initiate as last time to test myself.”
Crosby played mostly with wingers Matt Cooke
and Tyler Kennedy
. The trio opened the scoring just three minutes into the game, though Crosby did not assist on the play. He also played with various other linemates, including center Jordan Staal
. And that’s something head coach Dan Bylsma said will be used in the future.
“I’d like to keep seeing (Jordan Staal
) with Crosby,” Bylsma said. “He played the wing for a few shifts. Staal down low is so strong and can create turnovers and go the other way. I liked seeing that and you’ll continue to see that in the next two games.”
Crosby was off to his best professional season in 2010-11 with 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games before suffering a concussion in January 2011. The injury caused him to miss 61 consecutive games.
Crosby returned to the ice Nov. 21, 2011 against the NY Islanders, posting two goals and four points. He would play eight games, totaling 12 points (2G-10A) before suffering from the recent setback following a Dec. 5 game against the Boston Bruins.
On Jan. 31 Crosby was diagnosed with a soft-tissue neck injury that could be causing neurological symptoms, which are similar to concussion symptoms. He was treated with an injection by Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles, to alleviated inflammation in the C1 and C2 joints of the neck.