Lots of big things happened Wednesday in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-0 romp over the New York Islanders. There were records and milestones, especially for core players Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin. But not Sidney Crosby.
Amazingly, Crosby had no points in the game. But don’t think he felt anything but thrilled, especially for his longtime teammates. The relationship between Crosby, Malkin and Letang is as strong as ever.
“I don’t know. It feels like it did before Christmas,” Crosby cracked Thursday after practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Yeah, they can joke like that. The three are in their mid-30s and in their 18th season together, a North American sports record for a trio of teammates with the same team. They passed the New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, who spent 17 consecutive seasons together.
There have been times when it looked as if the Penguins’ three core players might be broken up, but Letang and Malkin re-signed after the 2021-22 season. Crosby has this and one more season left on his contract.
“It feels like it’s pretty good after this long,” Crosby said of the relationship among the three. “If it can get stronger, great, but I feel like it’s been pretty good. We’ve spent a lot of time together over the years, been through a lot, and it’s pretty strong at this point for what we’ve gone though.”
They have won three Stanley Cups together — the highs — and have had first-round playoff flameouts and, last season, a seat outside the playoffs – the lows. They have been there for each other during injury and medical challenges. They have been there for each other for major individual accomplishments.
All three got misty the night the Penguins held a pregame ceremony for Crosby’s 1,000th game.
Wednesday, Letang became the first defenseman in NHL history to record five assists in one period and tied a record for defensemen with six assists overall. Malkin scored twice to pass his childhood idol, Sergei Fedorov, for second place all-time in the league among Russian-born players with 484 goals.
Crosby was happy simply to be a part of the game and witness those things.
“It’s just cool,” he said of Letang’s record. “Whether you’ve played with someone for a long time or just to witness that … There’s a lot of years that have gone into the NHL, over 100. For that never to have been done and be part of that is cool.”
And on Malkin: “He probably doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for what he’s done over his career. Just to be able to be in that company now, and to pass Fedorov, someone he idolized growing up and we all loved watching, but especially being a Russian-born player … He’s a competitive guy. He’s shown that year after year. Happy to see him move up the list.”
Valtteri Puustinen also scored his first NHL goal Thursday. Crosby has always had a soft spot for those moments among his many teammates over the years. Plus Malkin and Letang’s moments that night. Crosby loves those.
“A game like that. A game where (goaltender Tristan Jarry last month) scores. Things like that are pretty cool,” he said.
There are bound to be more moments for Crosby, Malkin and Letang to celebrate together. And moments where they simply share a laugh. All those moments add up.
“We like to keep it pretty light and probably give each other a harder time, and we do more of that than we do compliments,” Crosby said. “That seems to be the way it works out, but obviously we care a lot about each other and like to see each other have success.
“Whether it’s Tanger having a big night like that or Geno moving up the list, you’re always proud to see your teammates accomplish those things like that, and especially guys that you’ve seen do things like that over the years.”