DETROIT — Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby has a deep sense of hockey history, so becoming just the 15th player in NHL history to record 1,500 points — and doing it faster than all but five other men who have played in the league — surely means a lot to him.
But in the wake of etching his name into NHL lore yet again by scoring two goals and setting up another in the Penguins’ 5-1 victory over Detroit at Little Caesars Arena Saturday, Crosby made it clear that his personal linescore was not the most meaningful stat to come out of that game.
Rather, that was the final score, which boosted his team, at least temporarily, into the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference playoff field.
“(1,500) is a nice number,” he said. “Obviously, the most important thing is the next game. Our situation here, the urgency and desperation, so … that’s what I’m thinking about, more than numbers.”
Crosby’s goals pushed his career total to 500, and his assist on a Danton Heinen goal was his 950th in the NHL.
While he clearly has done a lot of assisting, Crosby preferred to discuss the teammates who have assisted him, in whatever way, along the way to reaching 1,500 points.
“A lot of guys are a big part of that, a couple of them (for) a long time,” he said. “That’s just a product of some guys that I’ve played with over the years.”
All are among the game’s immortals,
“I don’t think about that a whole lot,” Crosby said. “There are different points where you hit milestones and certain ones, maybe hit you or you reflect a little bit more. But I think, given our situation, when I look back to those scenarios — it’s a compliment, I’m happy to be part of that — but I’ve always just had the mentality to try to be my best and wherever that puts me as far as numbers or whatever the case is … I try to be my best so that I can contribute to winning games. That’s what I care most about.”
Someone mentioned to Jason Zucker that Crosby needed nearly 1,200 games to hit the 1,500-point milestone, and asked how many Zucker figured he would require to get there.
His answer was quick and direct: “Probably 4,000.”
OK, so Zucker — like almost everyone else who ever played in the league — isn’t likely to put up 1,500 before he gives up the game, but he’s having a stellar season; his assist on Evgeni Malkin’s insurance goal in the third period was his 48th point of the season.
While the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t flawless, they played a pretty solid three-period game. It was the kind of performance that, had they produced it more frequently during the previous 79 games, they likely wouldn’t be trying to sneak into the playoffs.
“We’ve known all along that we can play this way,” Zucker said. “It’s just about finding the consistency of doing it.”
Mike Sullivan has won two Stanley Cups with Crosby as his captain, and has witnessed countless dazzling feats by him over the years.
It’s no surprise, then, that he didn’t hesitate when trying to put Crosby accumulating 1,500 points into perspective.
“He’s not only one of the greatest players of his generation,” Sullivan said. “He’s one of the greatest players of all time. And he continues to do it. We all grow accustomed to all of these milestones that he seems to keep achieving and every additional one that he achieves, it seems like it’s that much more impressive, and puts him in even more elite company.
“He’s just an incredible athlete, and he just represents our game the right way. For me, he personifies everything that’s right about hockey, everything good about our sport.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled to protect leads in the third period for most of the season, but for the past two games, they have played well as the game was winding down and actually have added to their advantage instead of losing it.
“Just a commitment to defense,” said Tristan Jarry, who stopped 19 of 20 Red Wings shots. “We’re getting pucks in. We’re blocking a lot more shots, just playing the right way. Being able to play that way throughout, for a full 60 (minutes), really helps our team and it helped us put together a full game. It really helps us going into the third period, puts us in a good spot.”
Jarry has allowed just one goal in each of the past two games, and has been playing at a level the Pittsburgh Penguins will need if they are to be competitive in the playoffs, should they qualify.
“It’s been a tough year, to say the least,” Jarry said. “I was out for almost two months, at one point. It’s tough to … start, play a couple of games, be out for a long period of time, then come back for a couple of games and be out again.
“I haven’t really gotten consistent game play throughout this year. It’s been tough. Just being able to play multiple games in a row, you start to feel your game, and you start to get better.”