Sidney Crosby returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup with two goals and two assists after missing more than 10 months following a concussion.
Crosby, appearing in his first National Hockey League game since Jan. 5, scored his first goal less than six minutes into the Penguins’ 5-0 win against the New York Islanders last night at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
“Anyone who’s missed a long period of time, you’re just so happy to be out there,” said the Penguins’ captain, who sat out 67 games over the past two seasons. “It’s a bonus that we won and I was able to contribute.”
Crosby, 24, was cleared by doctors to return to action two days ago and said he’s free of the post-concussion symptoms that forced him to miss 47 games last season and the Penguins’ first 20 games this year.
Crosby led Pittsburgh with 66 points last season even though he missed 41 regular-season games, setting an NHL record for the fewest games played by a team’s leading scorer. Last night, he picked up where he left off, speeding through the Islanders’ defense and flipping a backhand shot over the shoulder of goaltender Anders Nilsson 5:24 into the game.
Crosby assisted on the Penguins’ next two goals before scoring for the second time 2:06 into the final period on another backhand shot from a severe angle. Crosby’s return helped the Penguins snap a two-game losing streak and move ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.
Running on Adrenaline
“On a game like tonight, you run on adrenaline,” Crosby, who had 15 minutes, 54 seconds of ice time, said in a televised interview. “The next few it’ll start to set in and it will be a little tougher.”
Crosby was the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft and two years later won the Hart Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player at the age of 19, the youngest to get the honor.
Crosby suffered post-concussion symptoms following collisions with David Steckel of the Washington Capitals on Jan. 1 and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 5.
Although Crosby was practicing with his teammates at the start of training camp this season, he wasn’t participating in contact drills or scrimmages. He was cleared for full contact practice on Oct. 13, though doctors said he wouldn’t be permitted to resume playing until he was 100 percent healthy.
“The summer was a little tougher than I thought it was going to be, but that’s the nature of these things,” Crosby said. “They’re not easy to gauge and you have to be careful with them. I’m really happy to be back.”