A Day in the NHL: Crosby Returns to Penguins, Maple Leafs Finally Win One

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The Night that Was…

For the Pittsburgh Penguins last night was much more than just a matchup at Madison Square Garden between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference because they got two stars back: Captain Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang. With both players returning from upper-body injuries, the Penguins seemed rejuvenated. Just 2:54 in, Matt Cooke’s 13th of the season opened the scoring before Carl Hagelin scored (14) to send it to the second tied. The Pens would lead 3-1 by the 2:31 mark on goals by Evgeni Malkin (39) and Cooke, as Marian Gaborik’s 35th cut it to a one-goal lead headed to the third. Chris Kunitz’s 21st came three minutes in, but the important thing about that one was the fact that Crosby assisted on it, giving him his first point of the evening. Pascal Dupuis would add his 19th with Letang earning an assist, and the Pens would win 5-2. Gaborik, Hagelin and Brad Richards all had two points for New York, as Tyler Kennedy and James Neal each added two assists for Pittsburgh. Crosby was a +3 in 16 minutes of ice time with one shot in his return, while Letang finished as a +5 in 24:22 with two shots.

In a game that some might consider a mismatch, the Carolina Hurricanes hosted the league-leading St. Louis Blues last night. The Blues came in with points in six-straight, with the first five of those wins, while the ‘Canes had lost two-straight and three of four. After a scoreless first where Cam Ward made 13 saves on the Blues, and a scoreless second where he stopped them another 12 times (Brian Elliott made 19 saves through the first two periods), Chad LaRose got Carolina on the board with his 15th halfway through the third and Jeff Skinner would add his 20th a little later for a 2-0 win. Skinner now has points in two-straight and five of his last six, and Cam Ward made 40 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.

The struggles of the Boston Bruins continued last night. Losers of three in a row, the B’s were hoping to break out of their slump against the Florida Panthers. The Cats had other ideas though: Mikael Samuelsson’s 10th of the season opened the scoring in the first, and Marcel Goc (10) made it 2-0 before Joe Corvo (4) got Boston on the board. Stephen Weiss (17) and John Madden (1) added goals after Corvo cut the lead in half, and after Brian Rolston (5) made it 4-2, Tomas Kopecky (8) and Wojtek Wolski (3) wrapped up a 6-2 win. Brian Campbell had three assists in the win, while Samuelsson, Weiss and Fleischmann all had two-point nights as well. Jose Theodore made 24 saves for the win, his 21st of the season, while Tim Thomas allowed all six goals.

The Rest of the Story…

Martin Brodeur and Jean-Sebastien Giguere battled tooth-and-nail last night. Giguere made 33 saves for the Colorado Avalanche, while Brodeur stopped 28 shots en route to a scoreless regulation and OT between the Avs and the New Jersey Devils. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise scored in the shootout to give the Devils the win.

The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t get a shutout, but they still got the win last night. Zac Rinaldo (2) and Claude Giroux (26) both scored in the first period, and Scott Hartnell added his 33rd before the New York Islanders got on the board. Michael Grabner (16) and John Tavares (31) scored in the third period for the Isles. Hartnell, Girxou and Mark Streit all had two points, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves for the victory.

On his birthday, James Reimer gave Toronto Maple Leafs fans a gift last night. After John-Michael Liles (6), Joey Crabb (9) and Jake Gardiner (5) got the Leafs out to a 3-0 lead after two, Reimer would shut the door on Tampa Bay, only allowing Martin St. Louis’ 23rd through in a 3-1 win. Matthew Lombardi had a pair of assists as Reimer made 34 saves.

The Calgary Flames won their fifth in a row last night, 4-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes. Sven Baertschi scored his third goal in four games, while Jarome Iginla (31), Matt Stajan (6) and Alex Tanguay (12) all scored as well. Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for the victory.

It was a tight one between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks last night. Patric Hornqvist’s 22nd (at 13:18 of the first) was the only goal of the first two periods until Joe Thornton tied things up with his 16th, on the power play, early in the third. Things went to a shootout locked at one, where Ryan Clowe scored the only goal (in the third round) to give the Sharks the 2-1 win. Pekka Rinne stopped 34 shots while Antti Niemi made 32 saves.

What’s on Tonight?

It’s a Northeast division and All-Canadian matchup tomorrow when Montreal visits Ottawa, Washington heads to Winnipeg to take on the Jets, who are four points behind the Caps, and Chicago pays a visit to the Dallas Stars. It’s the latest edition of the Battle of Albert when the Calgary Flames visit the Edmonton Oilers, and the Los Angeles Kings visit the Anaheim Ducks.

The Injury Bug

-The Maple Leafs will likely be without Nikolai Kulemin for the remainder of the season. The forward is suffering from a broken finger and will miss the next three weeks.

-Mikko Koivu has returned to contact practices for the Minnesota Wild. Koivu has missed time with a shoulder injury, but could return to action on Saturday.

-Pavel Datsyuk continues to skate, but a return Saturday is doubtful. Datsyuk isn’t reporting any pain in the knee, after he underwent surgery on it in late February.

-Jonathan Toews will not travel with the Chicago Blackhawks to Dallas for Friday’s game. He did not practice yesterday, and it’s thought he’s suffered a setback in his return from a concussion.

The Overlooked Fantasy Line of the Night…

Matt Cooke’s rebirth continued last night. Cooke had two goals last night, including the game-winner in a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers. He added five shots on goal and was a +2 in just over 16 minutes of ice time.

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