EDMONTON – Sidney Crosby made his professional debut in Western Canada Wednesday and he didn’t disappoint.
The 20-year-old centre ignited a third period comeback with three assists as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 before a sold-out crowd of 16,839 in NHL action. Kris Letang, Maxime Talbot, Ryan Whitney and Colby Armstrong scored for Pittsburgh while Robert Nilsson and Shawn Horcoff replied for Edmonton.
The Penguins have won five out of their last six and improved their season record to 13-12-2.
It was the first time Crosby played in Edmonton due to the unbalanced schedule.
He will play his first pro game in Calgary against the Flames Thursday and on Saturday in Vancouver against the Canucks.
The Penguins were outshooting the Oilers early but found themselves down 2-0 until they caught fire six minutes into the third period. Talbot started the offensive explosion when he jumped on a loose puck in front of Dwayne Roloson and backhanded it past the sprawling netminder.
Pittsburgh tied it 21 seconds later. Letang took a pass from Crosby in the high slot and wristed a whistling low shot past Roloson.
Crosby set up the go-ahead goal at 10:57. He dug out the puck from behind the net and fed it to defenceman Mark Eaton at the point, who blasted the puck that in turn bounced off Armstrong at the side of the net and in.
Crosby finished it off at 13:30, firing a bullet pass through the slot for a one-timer by Whitney.
The win snaps a three-game winning streak for the Oilers, who fall two games under .500 to 13-15-1.
Crosby now has points in six straight games – three goals, seven assists.
Nilsson opened the scoring at 5:39 of the first period.
He notched his second goal of the season when he took a cross-ice feed from defenceman Joni Pitkanen and one-timed it low from the face-off circle over the shoulder of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Horcoff made the score 2-0 with less than three minutes to go in the second frame on almost exactly the same play. This time, winger Ales Hemsky circled with the puck to Fleury’s right before throwing it through the slot on a laser beam for Horcoff to one-time it over Fleury’s short-side shoulder.
Crosby has been treated like royalty by throngs of fans since arriving in Edmonton. The 20-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., received a warm ovation from the fans when he came out for the pre-game skate.
“It’s great to come on the road and get a welcome like that. You never expect it, so it’s nice,” he said.
Notes: Hemsky returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised right knee a Penguins coach Michel Therrien coached his 350th NHL game a Steve Staios played his 400th game as an Oilera Penguins winger Mark Recchi cleared waivers Wednesday, but the Penguins have not decided whether to buy out his contract or send him to the minors a There will be no rematch this season as the Oilers and Penguins don’t meet again this year. The Penguins last played in Edmonton four years ago, on Dec. 6, 2003.