Crosby Assists 1K Times, Propelling the Penguins into the Postseason

Sidney Crosby is too engrossed in the now to consider the history he is creating. Too consumed with trying to force the Pittsburgh Penguins into a postseason berth that didn’t seem possible even a month ago to reflect on the significance of what he’s accomplished.

Furthermore, there isn’t actually a necessity. The kind of heights Crosby is currently achieving are only attained by the greatest—not just of their era, but of all time.

With a single signature backhand flip, the seasoned Penguins captain became the 10th all-time leading scorer in the league and the 14th NHL player to surpass 1,000 career assists on Thursday against Detroit.

Crosby’s brilliant feed to the slot found its way into Erik Karlsson’s stick, his teammate. The defenseman completed the task, scoring a goal 1:40 into overtime to give the Penguins a 6-5 victory that allowed them to pass Washington and secure the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Mike Sullivan of Pittsburgh remarked, “He plays his best when the stakes are high, like all of the all-time greats that have played the game.” “He’s one of those guys.”

Along with Ray Bourque (1,111 with Boston), Wayne Gretzky (1,086 with Edmonton), Steve Yzerman (1,063 with Detroit), Mario Lemieux (1,033 with Pittsburgh), Gordie Howe (1,023 with Detroit), and Joe Sakic (1,016 with Colorado/Quebec), Crosby became the seventh player to record 1,000 assists with a single team.

At 1,269 games, he also needed the seventh-fewest games to reach the milestone.

With a goal and two assists on Thursday, Crosby’s career total now stands at 1,591, one higher than that of Hall of Famer Phil Esposito. Lemieux is in eighth place at 1,723, followed by Sakic in ninth place at 1,641, and Crosby’s childhood hero, Yzerman, in seventh place at 1,755.

It’s not a matter of if Crosby passes them, but rather when, given the way he’s playing at 36 if he stays healthy.

“I haven’t looked that closely at it,” Crosby remarked. “But to be in that company with all those players you mentioned, that means a lot. I grew up watching those players.”

Similar to how Crosby’s teammates occasionally find themselves staring at his No. 87 and shaking their heads in disbelief. With a fantastic redirect at the left post, Crosby equaled Esposito for the lead on the scoring chart and earned assist number 999 on Drew O’Connor’s goal in the first period.

In the extra session, he gathered a rebound from a shot by Rickard Rakell and delivered the puck to an open sheet of ice, providing Karlsson ample space to score his tenth goal, advancing the Penguins to 7-0-3 in their previous ten games. Few predicted this rise a month ago when they were mired in 13th place in the East.

With three games left, they are currently in eighth place, largely due to Crosby, who was chosen by his teammates for the club’s most valuable player for the twelfth time that day.

The 36-year-old is undoubtedly acting that way.

About Crosby, Karlsson remarked, “He’s a big part of our game and he’s a big reason that we are in the situation we’re in.” “And we’re going to need him playing like this down the stretch here to have a chance.”

For Pittsburgh, goals from Kris Letang and Jeff Carter accounted for their tenth each. Once again, the Penguins let a two-goal third-period lead slip away, but Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 25 shots to help them overcome the setback.

It’s been a problem the whole season. Pittsburgh, however, bounced back this time to seize control of their postseason destiny.

“We’re just finding ways to win right now,”  Nedeljkovic stated. “They’re not always going to be pretty. You’d like them to be a little prettier than that but you know, like I said, we’ll take two points tonight.”

Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh was nine points outside of the postseason. The Penguins made a shocking late surge led by Crosby and Nedeljkovic, closing the gap on Washington, Philadelphia, and Detroit.

They have now surpassed all three.

With their third defeat in four games, the Red Wings’ hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 suffered a further damage.

For Detroit, Lucas Raymond scored his second hat trick of the season. Former Penguin Jeff Petry added his third of the year. For the Red Wings, Dylan Larkin scored his 33rd goal. Despite Lyon’s 21 stops, Karlsson was unstoppable in the closing moments, and the Penguins earned the extra point.

“Hard to get one point,” stated Larkin. “Again, they got two and that’s a team we need to catch. The positive is the no quit. They played pretty well and we’re right there.”

From the first faceoff, the game had a postseason vibe, which was a stark contrast to a month earlier when PPG Paints Arena occasionally sounded like a library due to the Penguins’ poor play and, at best, slim prospects of making the playoffs.

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