“Everything that he is doing now is quite amazing at his age,” Lemieux said after his 18-year-old linemate had three points in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 5-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Lemieux was pretty good, too. The Penguins’ player-owner set up both of Crosby’s goals and added a third assist as Pittsburgh rode a rare early lead to victory.
If not for Crosby, much of the talk around the Penguins could easily be about Lemieux—who still has it at 40.
Crosby, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, had a goal and an assist in the first period and then scored again in the third off a brilliant pass from Lemieux for his second three-point game in 13 contests. Crosby has at least one point in all but two games.
“Every time you get those chances you want to take advantage,” the low-keyed Crosby said.
He gave the Penguins the lead just 4:40 in and then set up Mark Recchi’s fourth goal to make it 2-0 at 15:27. Crosby pushed the lead to 5-1 at 4:01 of the third when he cut to the net to receive Lemieux’s pass that sailed over the stick of Islanders defenseman Alexei Zhitnik. The rookie knocked the puck out of mid air for his fourth goal—third on the power play.
“I just came over the blue line, and he is just the best at setting it up,” Crosby said. “It was a nice pass and I just had to find a way to get open and he found a way to put it right on my tape.”
But the multigoal game, the latest in a string of firsts for the player labeled as “The Next One,” didn’t seem to hold any special significance.
“Maybe there will be some other firsts, but I don’t look at a two-goal game too high up on the firsts list,” he said.
Pittsburgh scored the first goal for only the second time this season. The Penguins hadn’t enjoyed a 2-0 advantage in their first 12 contests—six of which went to overtime. They have won three of four after losing their first nine games (0-4-5).
Erik Christensen, who made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime win at New Jersey, scored his first goal and John LeClair made it 4-1 in the final minute of the second period. Defenseman Ryan Whitney, who also made his debut against the Devils, had three assists to give him four in two games.
Sebastien Caron made 22 saves in his fourth consecutive start as he continues to wrest the No. 1 goalie position away from Jocelyn Thibault. The Penguins have three games left on their longest trip of the season, a five-game excursion that will also take them to Boston, the New York Rangers and Atlanta.
“It just took a while,” Lemieux said. “I think now we’re playing as a team, moving the puck pretty well and passing the puck pretty well, which we didn’t do in the first 10 games.
“It’s an important road trip and we’re off to a good start.”
Rick DiPietro, the first goalie ever drafted No. 1, was the lone bright spot for the Islanders, who have dropped three of four and four of six. DiPietro stopped 28 shots after sitting out New York’s overtime victory against Boston on Tuesday because of a sore knee.
Islanders captain Alexei Yashin gave New York brief hope when he scored his eighth of the season, cutting the deficit to 2-1 with 6:20 left in the middle period. But Christensen restored Pittsburgh’s two-goal lead 2:03 later. LeClair made it 4-1 with 37.3 seconds remaining.
“When they got that first goal, that set us back a bit, more than I think it should,” Islanders coach Steve Stirling said. “At 2-1, we didn’t push hard enough. I thought we were careful, and careful doesn’t win games.”
It could’ve been worse for the Islanders if not for DiPietro, who stopped several deflected, redirected, and one-timed shots—many set up or taken by the line of Crosby, Lemieux and Recchi.
“They moved the puck pretty well and exposed us a bit,” DiPietro said. “(Crosby’s) a good player, but that’s a good line.”
New York lost two of three on its homestand, falling to 4-3 at Nassau Coliseum.
Crosby, the rookie of the month in October, has four goals and 14 assists on the season. … The Islanders (6-7) have allowed at least five goals four times in 13 games. … Pittsburgh also scored first in a 7-6 OT loss to Boston on Oct. 8. The Penguins have been ahead in only six games.