Penguins secure home ice in 1st round
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby put on a show in the final regular season game at Mellon Arena on Thursday night, and his club locked up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Crosby scored his 49th goal and assisted on three others in a 7-3 Pittsburgh victory. He now has 104 points on the year and 501 for his five-season career. Only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux reached 500 points at a younger age than Crosby, who turns 23 in August.
"It's one of those numbers," Crosby said of the 500 mark. "It's a nice accomplishment. You don't think about those things a lot."
Pittsburgh's final standing is not yet determined, but the Penguins will host an Eastern Conference playoff series. Their victory also helped consign the Ottawa Senators to fifth place, with a strong chance the clubs could meet in the first round of the postseason for the third time in four years.
More than 50 former Pittsburgh players were on hand to witness the final regular season game, including:
Paul Coffey, Bryan Trottier, Andy Bathgate, Rick Kehoe, Ed Olyczk, Syl Apps, Jean Pronovost, Lowell MacDonald, Les Binkley, Ron Schock, Ron Stackhouse, Pierre Larouche, Mike Bullard, and Greg Malone.
Longtime coach Eddie Johnston and Stanley Cup architect Craig Patrick were present, with the loudest ovation coming for Hall of Famer and current owner Mario Lemieux.
First coach Red Sullivan, 80, and first general manager, Jack Riley, 90, also attended.
Crosby was originally credited with his 50th goal of the season on a slapshot through traffic past goalie Dwayne Roloson to put the Penguins up 5-3 late in the second.
The goal was changed following the game after it was revealed that the puck clipped Bill Guerin in front of the New York net. Crosby didn't seem to need that long to know, immediately pointing to Guerin after the goal.
"I thought right away when I shot it, I thought it hit Billy's leg or hand," said Crosby. "Obviously, I asked him right after and he said it did go off his pants.
"It would have been great to be able to get it here, but at the end of the day goals go to guys that deserve them and he deserved that one."
Crosby will have two more cracks to become the eighth Penguin in history to hit No. 50. He notched his 49th with less than a minute left in the first on New York starting goalie Martin Biron, firing a wrist shot through a screen set up by teammate Pascal Dupuis.
Crosby's previous best in a season was 39 goals, achieved in his 2005-06 rookie campaign.
Guerin would score again in the third and potted more than 20 goals for the 12th time in his career. Brooks Orpik, Alex Goligoski, Evgeni Malkin and Tyler Kennedy also scored for Pittsburgh in its 1,667th game at the rink dubbed The Igloo.
"We've all played for this team and to share this night together and get a big win like we did, that's special, that's the way you want to remember it," said Crosby.
The Penguins (46-27-7) will play next season at the Consol Energy Center, located in the same vicinity.
Pittsburgh scored just 23 seconds into the game. Orpik sent a floater to the net, with Matt Cooke distracting Biron.
The Penguins then worked the puck around expertly on a power play, with Crosby setting up Goligoski's high wrister with a cross-ice pass at 5:01.
The Islanders countered with their own power-play marker. Mark Streit's slapper was tipped home by Moulson for his 28th of the season.
New York threatened with five minutes left in the period but an impressive save by Marc-Andre Fleury paved the way for Malkin to intercept a pass and drive down the ice for his 26th of the season.
Kyle Okposo rifled a shot through traffic from the slot for the Islanders at 17:08, but Crosby had the Penguins up 4-2 heading into the intermission.
Biron gave up four goals on 10 shots, giving way to Roloson.
"Four goals in the first period is a pretty hard road to come back on," Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
Josh Bailey tightened the game for the Islanders, and Fleury would complete a show-stopping sequence to help turn the tide.
Fleury made three saves as the Islanders threatened while short handed. Bruno Gervais, Sean Bergenheim and Frans Nielsen were all denied by the Pittsburgh goalie, who finished with 30 saves.
While the Pittsburgh fans waited in suspense to see if the goal at 14:34 of the second would be credited to Crosby, Kennedy snapped home his 13th less than two minutes remaining to effectively put the game out of reach.
Malkin, Guerin and Kennedy each finished with a goal and an assist.
Sergei Gonchar and Dupuis each registered two assists. Gonchar has helped set up seven goals against New York this season.
The final win at Mellon brought their season record against the Isles to 4-1. Each team will have an interim game before concluding the season against each other on Sunday.
With files from The Associated Press