PITTSBURGH – It was, in many ways, Sidney Crosby’s remarkable career distilled to its essence. Game on the line. A wide-open net. A race to the puck. These are the moments the Pittsburgh Penguins star embraces as well as anyone in his sport.
Of course he beat Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele to the crease. Of course he poked the puck over the goal line with 21 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 4-3 victory on Thursday night. Of course he provided the exclamation point on the same night he became the 86th player in league history to reach 1,000 career points.
“It’s nice to win the game when you have a memorable night like this,” Crosby said. “You want to finish it the right way.”
Something Crosby has done again and again. The two-time MVP and Stanley Cup winner reached 1,000 points in 757 games. Only 11 players got there faster. None of them are playing anymore. Crosby is. Spectacularly.
Crosby finished with a goal and two assists to give him 1,002 in his career and 64 on the season, which also happens to be tops in the NHL. Same as it ever was for the 29-year-old who remains very much in the thick of his prime.
“The fact he scores the game winner is apropos, given he gets the 1,000th point in the game,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think the sky’s the limit for Sid. I think he’s that good of a player.”
One who got to 1,000 with an assist on Chris Kunitz’s first-period goal, began the march to the next thousand when he helped set up Phil Kessel’s game-tying goal in the third, and then capped it by getting to Evgeni Malkin’s centering pass a half-step before Scheifele.
Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 44 shots for the Penguins, who improved to 6-0-2 since the All-Star break.
Patrik Laine scored his 27th for Winnipeg. Paul Postma collected his first and Dustin Byfuglien his eighth for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves, but couldn’t get a handle on Crosby’s 31st of the season and 369th goal of his career.
History came in typically symbolic fashion for one of the game’s best playmakers.
Crosby reached it not with some breathtaking move, but by simply outworking an opponent. The Penguins were already up 1-0 on Malkin’s goal 59 seconds into the game when Crosby beat Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler to a loose puck in the left circle. Crosby collected himself, then slipped a pass to Kunitz wide open in the slot. Kunitz powered it into the open net, the 186th time the longtime teammates have factored in a goal together.
“He’s been able to use his body to create space and then to have the vision to be able to pull the puck away from somebody and give me an open look for a pass that was right in my wheelhouse,” Kunitz said. “That’s the way he battles.”
Islanders 4, Rangers 2
In New York, Andrew Ladd scored twice to lead the Islanders over the crosstown-rival Rangers.
Wild 3, Stars 1
In St. Paul, Minnesota, Darcy Kuemper stopped 34 shots, Erik Haula had a goal and an assist and the Wild topped Dallas.
Coyotes 5, Kings 3
In Los Angeles, Brendan Perlini scored twice, Jordan Martinook added short-handed and empty-net goals in the third period and Mike Smith made 41 saves for Arizona.
Oilers 6, Flyers 3
In Edmonton, Connor McDavid had a goal and two assists to regain the NHL scoring lead, and the hosts beat Philadelphia.
Blues 4, Canucks 3
In St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Steen scored third-period power-play goals to lift the Blues over Vancouver.
Senators 3, Devils 0
In Newark, New Jersey, Mike Condon made 21 saves in recording his fifth shutout of the season for Ottawa.
Sabres 2, Avalanche 0
In Buffalo, Sam Reinhart and Evander Kane scored, Robin Lehner made 23 saves and the Sabres beat Colorado.