By Will Graves
The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH - Sidney Crosby may have picked up a new hobby during his lengthy layoff for concussion-like symptoms: agitator.
The Pittsburgh Penguins superstar collected three assists in a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday, though it was his play in front of his own net that raised eyebrows.
Crosby mixed it up with Ottawa's Nick Foligno early in the third period, the start of a brief dust-up in which Crosby and Foligno exchanged a couple of punches before teammates got involved.
Both players earned minor penalties - Crosby for elbowing, Foligno for roughing - and Foligno took exception with Crosby hitting him up high to clear space in front of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
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"It's not a big deal, but it is something that he preached all summer about that we should limit that and then he goes and does it, so I was just a little disappointed," Foligno said. "But, you know, that's a small part of the game and it's over now."
So was the game following a first-period explosion by the Penguins.
Chris Kunitz, Tyler Kennedy, Steve Sullivan and Evgeni Malkin all scored within a 7:25 span to turn a one-goal deficit into a 4-1 lead, chasing Ottawa starting goaltender Craig Anderson before the period was halfway gone.
Crosby assisted on three of the goals - including a beautiful cross-ice feed to Kunitz following a shot fake - as the Penguins bounced back from a loss to St. Louis on Wednesday in style.
"I think we wanted to start better than we did last game," Crosby said. "It was just a matter of doing that. They scored early but we knew there was a lot of time left and we could get back into the game. Everyone responded well, and that carried over for the next two periods."
Crosby now has seven points - two goals, five assists - in three games since returning. He also has eight penalty minutes and not shied away from contact.
The Senators noticed. Foligno popped him cleanly in the second period, and Crosby didn't hesitate to skate into traffic.
His brief scuffle with Foligno in the third came while he was trying to protect goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who finished with 24 stops and noticed the familiar No. 87 doing some of the dirty work just outside the crease.