If there was any question as to how long it would take for Sidney Crosby to reach his superstar form, he answered it with his first shot of the season.
The superstar forward scored twice and added two assists in his season debut and the Pittsburgh Penguins crushed the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.
Playing his first game in more than 10 months while recovering from concussion-like symptoms, Crosby appeared to be in mid-season form. He scored on his third shift in spectacular fashion, weaving through the New York defence before beating Anders Nilsson with a backhand for his first goal on his first shot since last December.
“I saw for a few seconds they were a little flat-footed,” Crosby said. “I was able to get some good speed built up when I got it. I knew I had a chance to go wide.”
Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.
“Sidney Crosby’s back, guys,” linemate Pascal Dupuis said.
Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots.
Crosby played nearly 16 minutes, and absorbed a hit at game speed. New York’s Travis Hamonic cleanly checked Crosby to the ground during a first-period Pittsburgh power play.
“Did I know who it was? Yeah,” Hamonic said. “I thought it was just an opportunity to be hard on someone and, you know, that’s all it was and just got caught out there battling.”
It was the first real test of Crosby’s comeback, and he popped up immediately to get back in the play as the Penguins—and the rest of the hockey world—exhaled.
Even if Crosby wasn’t exactly thrilled at getting popped.
“I was mad at myself for putting myself in that position,” Crosby said. “(But) I’m glad I kind of got that over with too early on. There’s going to be more hits and probably harder ones.”
Nilsson, making just his second start of the season, made 31 saves for New York.
BRUINS 1, CANADIENS 0
MONTREAL (AP)—Tim Thomas made 33 saves for his second straight shutout and Boston extended its winning streak to nine games with a victory over Montreal.
Andrew Ference scored his second goal 15:41 in for Boston, which has not lost since dropping two in a row to Montreal from Oct. 27-29.
Thomas got his third shutout of the season, including a 23-save effort in a 6-0 road win over the New York Islanders on Saturday. It was his 29th regular-season shutout.
The Bruins have outscored their opponents 46-14 over the course of the streak, their longest since a 10-game run from Dec. 12, 2008 to Jan. 1, 2009.
Carey Price, who stopped 17 shots, had shutouts in each of his past two starts. Ference’s goal ended his shutout streak at 148 minutes, 11 seconds.
PANTHERS 4, DEVILS 3
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Tomas Fleischmann scored at 17:57 in the third period and Florida beat New Jersey.
Kris Versteeg scored two goals for Florida, and Stephen Weiss had a goal and an assist. Jose Theodore stopped 24 shots.
Fleischmann took a pass from Weiss to the left of the net and shot it past Martin Brodeur.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Petr Sykora, and Dainius Zubrus scored for the Devils. Brodeur had 33 saves. Andy Greene had two assists.
HURRICANES 4, FLYERS 2
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Alexei Ponikarovsky had two goals and an assist and Chad LaRose had a goal and two assists and Carolina earned a win over Philadelphia.
Jeff Skinner also scored and Cam Ward made 30 saves for Carolina, which got its first victory in Philadelphia since Nov. 28, 2008. Jussi Jokinen added two assists for the Hurricanes.
James van Riemsdyk and Matt Read scored for Philadelphia, which has lost two in a row.
Down 2-0 after the first period, van Riemsdyk scored his eighth goal of the season early in the second period to get Flyers on the board. However, a couple of minutes later, LaRose got his sixth torestore Carolina’s two-goal edge.
CAPITALS 4, COYOTES 3
WASHINGTON (AP)—Nicklas Backstrom scored early in the third period, then set up Brooks Laich’s power-play goal, helping the Capitals rally from a two-goal deficit and edge Phoenix, ending Washington’s four-game losing streak.
The victory was the 200th of Bruce Boudreau’s NHL coaching career. He took over the Capitals in November 2007, promoted from AHL affiliate Hershey when Washington fired Glen Hanson on Thanksgiving Day.
The Capitals entered Monday in a serious slump, having lost six of their previous seven games, including a 7-1 setback at Toronto on Saturday. But Backstrom broke a 2-2 tie only 1:52 into Monday’s final period, lifting the puck past goalie Jason LaBarbera from near the net.
Joel Ward and Alex Ovechkin were credited with assists—Ovechkin’s first point in five games. That ended only the second four-game point drought of Ovechkin’s NHL career; the other came in February 2007, and he’s never had a longer stretch.
Lauri Korpikoski’s second goal of the game, with about 8 1/2 minutes left, cut the Coyotes’ deficit, but they couldn’t manage to pull even.
STARS 4, OILERS 1
DALLAS (AP)—Toby Petersen, Steve Ott and Michael Ryder each scored goals and Dallas Stars ended a five-game losing streak with a victory over Edmonton.
Kari Lehtonen made 17 saves for the Stars, who had been outscored 21-4 during the five-game skid.
Radek Dvorak wrapped up the win with a short-handed empty-netter with 1:24 left, Dvorak’s first goal of the season.
Rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had five assists in the Oilers’ 9-2 win over Chicago on Saturday night, scored eighth goal of the season for Edmonton.
Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 31 shots for Edmonton, which 1-5 in its past six games.
BLUE JACKETS 4, FLAMES 1
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Jeff Carter had two goals, Curtis Sanford made 27 saves and Columbus beat Calgary.
Antoine Vermette and Rick Nash also scored, and Vinny Prospal added three assists for the Blue Jackets, who improved 3-1-1 in their last five games, and 2-0-1 in those games with the red-hot Sanford. Nash stopped a seven-game drought.
Sanford, who signed a two-way contract in the off-season and recently returned from a groin injury, has been a steadying influence on the team in place of the struggling Steve Mason.
Mark Giordano scored for Calgary, which was seeking a third consecutive win. Backup Henrik Karlsson made 26 stops.