PITTSBURGH – The rest of the NHL had better take notice. Sidney Crosby is living up to his superstar image.
Crosby had his first career hat trick at Mellon Arena and added an assist, and the Pittsburgh Penguins snapped the New Jersey Devils’ five-game winning streak with a 4-1 victory Saturday night.
Crosby, who has six goals in three games to give him a team-high 13 for the season, scored twice Friday night at Buffalo. He posted consecutive multiple-goal games for the first time in his career.
“Obviously this whole league is full of talented players, and then there’s the elite players who are even more talented,” Devils goalie Scott Clemmensen said. “And when those guys are the hardest-working players on the ice, then that is scary good. Just scary good.”
Petr Sykora also scored and Dany Sabourin made 29 saves for Pittsburgh, which completed a 9-2-1 November.
Michael Rupp had a third-period goal for the Devils.
Crosby has nine points in three games to give him 34 in 23 games this season.
“The last week Sid really picked up his game,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “You could see the fire in his eyes and that he was having fun.”
Crosby had a goal during each period for his second career hat trick – and first since Oct. 28, 2006. But that was in Philadelphia; this was the first time he was showered with hats from the home fans.
“It’s nice to do it at home,” Crosby said. “It’s something that you don’t know when it’s going to happen again, so it’s nice.”
Crosby was at his fast-skating, playmaking best most of the contest, and he scored just 1:21 into it. The Penguins’ 21-year-old captain carried the puck into the offensive zone, splitting Paul Martin and Bryce Salvador to get in close on Clemmensen from the right side. He briefly lost control of the puck before spinning to the left of the crease and firing a turning backhand past Clemmensen.
“The guy never gives up on the play, that’s for sure,” Clemmensen said.
Crosby’s second goal came midway through the third, when Evgeni Malkin took the puck off a turnover by Barry Tallackson and slapped it to Crosby, who was alone to the left of Clemmensen and made it 3-0.
“As great of a player he is, he’s going to get his chances,” Salvador said. “He’s going to get his shots and make his plays. And you’ve just got to try to minimize them as much as you can.”
Crosby even made his empty-net goal look pretty. With 2:01 to play, he stripped Patrik Elias of the puck at centre ice and skated forward. Despite being hooked by Elias, Crosby dove to slap the puck into the net.
Crosby assisted on the Penguins’ first power-play goal in 17 chances by walking through the right circle and delivering a pass over the stick of a New Jersey defenceman to Sykora, who was alone on the opposite side of the crease. He scored at 7:26 of the second.
The 2006-07 NHL scoring champion, Crosby had only three goals during his first 14 games this season, but has 10 in the nine since.
“I haven’t changed that much,” Crosby said. “I think I’m playing well, but I’m getting some breaks, as well.”
New Jersey briefly made a game of it 1:54 into the third when Rupp roofed a wrist shot from the left circle that beat Sabourin high to his glove side. Elias and Brian Gionta assisted on the goal, Rupp’s second.
The Devils had scored 23 goals their previous five contests but were limited in their chances Saturday.
“We just didn’t have it,” New Jersey coach Brent Sutter said. “For the first 40 minutes, we didn’t play like we had been playing for 10-plus games, and it showed.
“I thought in the third period we played much better, but 20 minutes against a very good hockey team and you’re down, 3-0. That makes it tough.”
Notes: Crosby had a career-high, six-game goal streak during his rookie season. … League scoring leader Malkin had two assists to give him eight points in his past three games. … Gionta has five goals and five assists during a seven-game point streak but did not have a goal for the first time in six games. … Sykora’s goal was his second in 10 games.