PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Maybe it was the pre-game ceremony featuring 50 former Pittsburgh Penguins.
Maybe it was the need for the Penguins to right their ship before the NHL playoffs begin next Wednesday night.
Maybe it was the hope that the Penguins could still win the Atlantic Division over the New Jersey Devils after losing all six games to them this season.
And maybe, it was just another example of a team captain rising up and leading his team to victory.
Knowing full well that the Atlantic Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference was still up in the air; the Penguins took it to the New York Islanders in a 7-3 rout, tying them with the Devils after they lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2. New Jersey still owns the tiebreaker over Pittsburgh, but it was a win coming after emotions stirred the crowd following pre-game ceremonies honoring past Penguins in tribute of the final regular season game at Mellon Arena.
With Washington's Alex Ovechkin(notes) and Steven Stamkos(notes) of Tampa Bay in the race, Crosby made his presence known with his 49th at the end of a wild first period that featured six goals. Stamkos had scored his 48th for Tampa Bay around the same time and near the end of the second period, it seemed like the Penguins' captain had overtaken the lead with his 50th of the year.
It wasn't meant to be, however. Despite chatter that Crosby's shot had went off Bill Guerin(notes) and the Mellon Arena crew taking their time reviewing the goal, he was eventually awarded the goal and it was announced to a raucous Mellon Arena crowd. It wasn't until after the game that it was learned Crosby had told the Penguins his shot went off Guerin and the goal was not his.
Despite being stuck on 49 goals again, Crosby did record his 500th point in his career and became only the eighth Penguin to do so in franchise history.
It was probably a wise decision to wait until after the game to announce the Crosby goal was really Guerin's. The way the crowd was fired up after seeing some of the Penguins' legends during pre-game and then the goal scoring outburst during the game, we would have likely seen the Mellon Arena roof blow off for the first time since "Sudden Death" if it was announced that it was Guerin's 20th goal instead of Crosby's historic 50th.
Goal or no goal, the four-point night for Crosby didn't surprise head coach Dan Bylsma.
"You don't often get surprised by the performances that he puts up," said Bylsma. "It's fitting that our last regular season game there's another story to tell about a Mellon Arena game: Sidney Crosby getting four points."
The Atlantic Division title is now down to two games. Pittsburgh visits Atlanta on Saturday and then faces the Islanders again on Sunday evening in New York. New Jersey hosts the Islanders and Buffalo Sabres over the weekend.
With the up and down nature of the Penguins play of late, the division title carrot still hanging over their head with two games remaining could be the tonic to get them back to consistency as the playoffs draw near.