Hours after the franchise announced it remain in Pittsburgh for the next 30 years, Crosby had a goal and two assists and scored the deciding goal in the shootout as the Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“I think everyone’s relieved, including us, that got done and we can put it past us and look forward,” Crosby said. “We’re all happy for that and the fans obviously showed it tonight.
“With this team, they just keep coming. But we played a solid game, too.”
Erik Christensen also scored in the shootout, Ryan Whitney added three assists and Sergei Gonchar a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who are 4-0-1 in their last five.
Daniel Briere had a goal and two assists and Chris Drury and Jason Pominville a goal and an assist each for Buffalo, which came back from a 4-2 deficit in the third period to earn a point, but still lost for a season-high fourth straight game.
“They were certainly ready and on their game,” Drury said. “We didn’t generate as much as we need to.
“I guess when you do that and get a point, it’s still a good thing.”
The game was played a few hours after Penguins owners and government officials announced an agreement on a financing plan to build a new multi-purpose Pittsburgh arena and sign the Penguins to a 30-year lease to play there. Just last week, the Penguins announced they would “aggressively pursue relocation” because Mellon Arena is the league’s oldest facility.
Mario Lemieux, a former Penguin in the Hall of Fame and now the team’s co-owner, addressed the crowd briefly before the game to a rousing ovation. “I am here to announce,” Lemieux said, “that your Pittsburgh Penguins will remain here in Pittsburgh, where they belong.”
The noise level and atmosphere stayed at a heightened level for much of the contest – befitting with two of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference facing each other.
“Everyone was just so excited to get the win and do it for these fans,” Whitney said. “It’s such a great city to play in; everyone couldn’t be happier.
“We’re so pumped to be here for a long time and hopefully win championships here. It was a fun game to be a part of, it was a playoff atmosphere and hopefully we’ll play into June with this atmosphere.”
Crosby got Sabres goalie Ryan Miller down and tucked the puck in on the forehand side to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead in the shootout. Marc-Andre Fleury then stopped Thomas Vanek to seal the win.
Five of the past seven Penguins games have gone to a shootout, with Pittsburgh winning four of them.
The past five Pittsburgh contests have been decided after regulation.
It didn’t appear as though this one would until Drury tied it 4-4 with 6.2 seconds left. Just after Pittsburgh’s Mark Recchi hit the post on an empty net, Drury beat Fleury off a feed from Briere, who was behind the net.
Pominville scored the game’s first goal 16½ minutes in. After being stopped by Fleury while in front of the net, Pominville collected the rebound while falling to his right and flipping the puck in while hitting the ice for his 28th goal.
“They had the momentum starting the game,” Pominville said. “We got the first one and they came right after and were able to get the momentum back . . . but we were able to get a point out of it at least.”
Pittsburgh’s Ryan Malone tied it 31 seconds later, and the Penguins controlled play from there, holding a 38-19 advantage in shots on goal. They took their first lead on a fluky goal late in the second period. A pass off the stick of Maxime Talbot deflected off of both Buffalo’s Clarke MacArthur and Miller and into the net for Talbot’s 10th of the season.
But the Sabres tied it 2-2 less than two minutes later when Dmitri Kalinin scored his sixth off a pass from Drury.
Crosby had a power play goal 1:18 into the third, getting his stick on Recchi’s shot while in front of Miller for his 29th of the season, and Gonchar appeared to put the game away with a power-play goal with 9:22 to play.
But Briere cut the lead to 4-3 about two minutes later off a pass from Jochen Hecht.
Still, the Penguins found a way to earn at least a point for the 23rd time in their past 27 games on the day it secured its future in the city it has spent 40 years in.
“It’s awesome,” Fleury said. “The crowd’s been with us the whole time and to get news like that.
“I think everyone in the room was happy and the fans, too, I think. They’re a tough team to beat and guys were pumped to go play.”
Notes: Penguins RW Georges Laraque didn’t play because of back spasms. … Pittsburgh became the first team to have 12 players with at least 10 goals. … The crowd of 17,132 was the 17th sellout in 19 games. … A “Mario for Governor” banner hung in the arena’s upper balcony.