PITTSBURGH – And he’s only 18.
Sidney Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season, setting up three goals in a 6-1 Pittsburgh victory over the New York Islanders that may prevent the Penguins from finishing as the league’s worst team for the second season in a row.
Crosby’s three-point night gave him 62 assists, to go with his 38 goals, and tied Mario Lemieux (1984-85) for the team record scoring record of 100 points. Crosby also joined Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets (103 points, 1981-82) as the only 18-year-olds to score 100 points in an NHL season.
Playing before a noisy, T-shirt-twirling crowd of 17,084 that reacted to every Crosby shift as it were the playoffs and not an almost meaningless late-season game between two teams that will sit out the postseason, Crosby gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see.
Three points – and his place in the record book.
Crosby, shut out two nights before by the Islanders, also became the seventh rookie to reach the 100-point mark, joining Teemu Selanne, Hawerchuk, Lemieux, Joe Juneau, Peter Stastny and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin, who reached the mark last week.
Crosby, honored in a pregame ceremony as the Penguins’ most valuable player, didn’t take long to get his first point, executing a 2-on-1 break with Andy Hilbert to set up Hilbert’s 12th goal at 1:04 of the first.
Then, midway through the second period, Crosby needed only 25 seconds to get points No. 99 and 100.
Crosby got his 99th point at 15:19, passing to Colby Armstrong along the right wing boards before cutting to the net, taking the return pass and feeding it ahead to Tomas Surovy for Surovy’s 12th goal.
After the Islanders’ Jason Blake drew a 5-minute charging penalty, Crosby grabbed the puck off John LeClair’s faceoff win and passed it up ice to Ryan Malone, who beat goalie Garth Snow for his 21st goal and second of the game, at 15:44.
Play was stopped for nearly five minutes as the crowd showered the ice with hats and T-shirts given away to support the Penguins’ efforts to get a new arena. Several fans held up signs reading “Crosby 100” – some others had it painted on their chests – and teammates crowded to congratulate Crosby as he returned to the bench.
Crosby, the No. 1 pick in last summer’s NHL draft, is 100 days younger than Hawerchuk was when he had his 103-point season. Hawerchuk’s big season also came in a higher-scoring era, during a season in which the NHL averaged nearly eight goals per game. Crosby’s feat came in a season in which the league average will be about six goals.
Crosby can match Hawerchuk’s 103-point total if he gets three points in the Penguins’ season-ending game Tuesday night at Toronto. He would surpass team owner Lemieux’s team rookie record with one more point.
By winning for only the 22nd time in 81 games, the Penguins moved ahead of St. Louis in the overall NHL standings, 58 points to 56 points. The Blues close their season Tuesday night at Chicago.
The team finishing last in the standings is assured of no worse than the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Crosby’s 100-point season provided a glimmer of hope for the Penguins’ future after a disappointing season that opened with them talking of being a Stanley Cup contender, following the addition of players such as LeClair, Mark Recchi, Sergei Gonchar and Ziggy Palffy. But those hopes faded quickly during a season-opening nine-game losing streak, and Lemieux later retired for the second time in his Hall of Fame career after developing a heart problem. Palffy also retired.
PITTSBURGH – And he’s only 18.