NHL-Crosby safely completes second comeback in Pens rout


Fri, 16 Mar 02:44:00 2012

He did not score a goal this time but it hardly mattered. Sidney Crosby safely made it through his second comeback and the NHL's biggest drawcard was grinning like he had won the Stanley Cup.

With his Pittsburgh Penguins team on the hottest winning streak in the league, lifting the NHL championship trophy aloft is something Crosby could well be doing in a couple of months.

Without Crosby, they had won their last nine games in a row. On Thursday, when he made his comeback from a three-month layoff, the Penguins (43-21-5) extended the streak to 10, thrashing the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers 5-2.

"I was just making sure I was responsible out there, doing the right thing, because all those details are important, especially in big games like this," Crosby told reporters.

"I was trying to make sure I stayed as even keeled as I could. It wasn't easy."

It was already looming as a crucial game for both teams but Crosby's return made it compulsive viewing for hockey fans across North America.

At Madison Square Garden, the Rangers' supporters booed and jeered when Crosby joined the game early in the first period but left as relieved as anyone that the 24-year-old completed the game unscathed.

All hockey fans had good reason to be concerned for Crosby, who had been sidelined for most of the past 14 months with concussion-like symptoms after being hit in the head in early 2011, triggering renewed debate about the level violence in the sport.

In November, he made his first comeback, scoring two goals in a fairytale return that suggested everything was fine for the Canadian. But it was not.

By December, he began experiencing more headaches then was subsequently diagnosed with a soft-tissue neck injury that experts said could have been responsible for causing neurological symptoms similar to those of a concussion.

The doctors ordered him to stop again and it was more than three months before he was allowed to resume full contact, the last hurdle before being cleared to play.

"I was just trying to calm myself a little more than last time," he said.

"I was pretty excited then and I was obviously excited this time but I didn't want to get caught trying to do too much."

He began Thursday's clash on the bench but was called into battle within the first two minutes.

He may not have scored a goal but he spent 16 valuable minutes on the ice, earned a point for his assist on Chris Kunitz's goal in the third period and absorbed all the punishment the Rangers (44-19-7) dished out.

"It was pretty much what I expected as far as ice time, the way I felt, everything," Crosby added.

"It felt pretty good. It felt like I was able to focus on what I was able to do. I got more comfortable as the game went on."


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