TORONTO – Sidney Crosby returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup Friday night and scored a highlight reel goal to go with an assist in a 5-4 pre-season win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The 21-year-old superstar sat out Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Toronto at Mellon Arena with a sore groin but looked no worse for the wear in his team’s final exhibition game on this side of the Atlantic.
Crosby, who earlier set up Mark Eaton’s goal, tied the game 3-3 at 5:26 of the third period when he took Miro Satan’s breakaway pass and beat Vesa Toskala while being hauled to the ice.
Matt Cooke settled matters with 1:35 left, banging home a loose puck for Pittsburgh’s first and only lead of the night. Kris Letang knotted the game 4-4 at 16:14 after Tomas Kaberle, who also had two assists, gave the Maple Leafs a brief 4-3 lead at 7:55.
Janne Pesonen also scored for the Penguins (3-0-1), who depart Saturday for Stockholm, Sweden, where they’ll open the NHL season with games versus the Ottawa Senators Oct. 4 and 5. They’ll also make a brief jaunt to Finland for a friendly with Jokerit Helsinki.
Luke Schenn, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, Dominic Moore and Alexei Ponikarovsky also scored for the Maple Leafs (1-2-0) before a crowd of 18,884.
Skating with Miro Satan and Pascal Dupuis on his wings, Crosby showed flashes of his dominant form, although he didn’t always look crisp early on. He worked his magic along the boards, bullying his way to the front of the net and made brilliant passes through sticks and legs.
His touch came and went, with Vesa Toskala’s brilliant toe save against him on his shot after a pretty cross-ice pass from Satan off a 2-on-1 in the second period standing out.
Still, Crosby was usually a force. Midway through the second he won a faceoff in the Leafs end back to Alex Goligoski, who relayed a pass to Eaton, who promptly wired a shot off a sprawling Ponikarovsky and past a fooled Toskala.
That cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2.
Toskala, making his pre-season debut, made several eye-popping stops, including a pair on shots off cross-ice passes in the first. He stoned Dupuis on a great feed from Satan in the first minute and flustered Jordan Staal midway through the frame.
Schenn made it a 3-1 game when his shot from the point snuck through a screened Marc-Andre Fleury just 1:55 into the second.
Ponikarovsky sent the Leafs to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead when he tipped Carlo Colaiacovo’s point shot off the face of Letang and into the goal.
Pesonen tied the game 1-1 at 15:24 when he took the rebound of a Ruslan Fedotenko shot off the end-boards and shovelled it past Toskala.
Moore opened the scoring a minute and a half earlier with his third goal of the pre-season, second shorthanded, when he picked up Jamal Mayers’ clearing pass in the neutral zone after Letang fell at the blue-line, coasted in on Fleury and beat him high.
Notes: Darryl Boyce and Tim Stapleton were among the 13 players assigned by the Leafs to the AHL Marlies. … The Penguins also opened the 2000-01 season overseas, clashing with Nashville in Japan. … Penguins tough guy Paul Bissonnette fought for the fourth time this pre-season, pummelling Toronto’s Ryan Hollweg midway through the second. Bissonnette picked up 35 penalty minutes in his previous two games. … Schenn was playing in his third straight game.