Round 1 was close.
Round 2: No question.
Sidney Crosby recorded the first four-point night of his NHL career Wednesday night at Mellon Arena to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins past Alexander Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals, 8-1.
It was the second meeting between the two super rookies. Crosby, the 2005 first-overall pick, owns a 2-0 head-to-head meeting over Ovechkin, 2004’s first-overall choice. Crosby had a goal and an assist in the Penguins’ 5-4 triumph over the Capitals on Nov. 22 at Mellon Arena, while Ovechkin had only one assist.
Ovechkin struck first Wednesday night as he scored a power-play goal 5:22 into the second period. Crosby responded in style as he assisted on three goals and added a nifty tally of his own in the romp.
“I don’t think it’s any more gratifying winning this one [since it was against Ovechkin],” Crosby said. “I think the only thing gratifying is just getting a win after the tough times we’ve been through and the way we did it. Scoring goals is nice and it’s well deserved. We’ve all worked really hard and only allowed one goal, too, which is nice. Everyone chipped in and it was nice to see that.”
Pittsburgh head coach Michel Therrien was impressed with the performance of Crosby and his Penguins.
“I think we all know, especially this year, that it’s always going to be special when those two great players play against each other,” Therrien said. “The way that the team performed, I think the guys stuck up for Sidney.”
Ovechkin, a speedy left winger, has outscored Crosby, 41-31, since the two first met on Nov. 22 to grab hold of the rookie scoring lead. However, Crosby’s four points trimmed his deficit to five points. Ovechkin (34+29) has 63 points, while Crosby, a center, has 58 points (24+34).
However, Crosby leads where it counts most of all – head-to-head. Crosby has outscored Ovechkin, 6-2, in two meetings. They meet two more times: Feb. 11 and March 8 in Washington.
“It’s another game. Of course I think about this game, but I don’t think what I must do to win the battle between me and Crosby. I think about what I must do to help this team,” Ovechkin said. “He is a good player. If I have a chance to watch his games, I watch. He’s fun to watch. He’s a great player.”
Crosby refuses to turn it into a personal battle as well. In fact, he and Ovechkin exchanged autographed sticks on Wednesday. Crosby was more concerned about snapping the Penguins’ 10-game losing skid more than anything.
“It was huge to get this win. It’s always frustrating when you’re losing, especially that many in a row, but I think it shows a lot about us in here,” Crosby said. “For us to come out and put everything together, it was nice.”
Still, Crosby had some nice individual plays. He set up both of Mark Recchi’s goals with two laser-crisp passes.
“I think his accuracy and vision are amazing. I got a good view on that first goal of Mark Recchi’s. There’s players like [Crosby] who have the sense,” Therrien said. “They see the ice so well. I don’t know how he saw him. It’s an instinct; he knew he was going to be there. He made some fantastic plays, fantastic plays.”
Crosby faked a slap-shot on both and instead zipped the passes to Recchi, reminiscent of former Penguins great Ron Franics.
“Yeah, maybe, I don’t know,” Crosby said with a smile. “A lot of guys do it. It’s a great play; I think you can keep your options open with shooting or passing. All you want to do is keep guys guessing.
“While I am winding up, I can still see the ice and the play and see where guys are moving. So, I guess with that delay of a half of second or whatever it is, I am just looking for anyone to shift. If not, I’ll shoot it. I am just trying to find openings,” he continued. “We clicked a couple times on the power play and had a few more chances. It’s just a matter of capitalizing on your chances and taking advantage of your opportunities. When we move the puck, good things happen.”
Crosby’s goal was yet another addition to his rookie highlight tape. Circling around the near side of the net, the puck started to bounce off Crosby’s stick. He kicked it with his right skate across the crease to the blade of his stick and slammed it into the goal by the far post.
“The puck was kind of bouncing and I just tried to get control back to it,” he said. “I think the goalie had gone down, not expecting me to kick it. I got lucky and just had to shoot.”
Crosby was named the game’s No. 1 star. When he skated onto the ice after the announcement, he waved a Terrible Towel in support of the Pittsburgh Steelers – his favorite NFL team.
“It was just one of those things where I wanted to give my support. I think everyone in the whole city is following them and I am, too,” he said. “I think it’s going to be fun to see how it goes the next couple of weeks and this town is probably going to be going crazy.”
They certainly were inside Mellon Arena.