Crosby injured as Pens win 15th in a row
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby lost several teeth and needed oral surgery after he was hit in the mouth with a puck during a 2-0 victory against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
Coach Dan Bylsma wasn’t sure if the injury affected Crosby’s jaw and didn’t know if he would miss any more time. The Penguins, who have won a league-high 15 straight games, host Buffalo on Tuesday.
“I just know he had some issues with his teeth,” Bylsma said. “Just from the replay I know that.”
Bylsma saw enough to become concerned about the health of the team’s biggest star, particularly because of his well-documented history battling concussion problems.
Crosby missed considerable time the past two years because of concussions. He was sidelined for the final 41 games in 2011 and the Stanley Cup playoffs, in addition to skipping most of the 2012 regular season as symptoms lingered.
“I think every time that type of thing happens to a player you think about it,” Bylsma said.
Crosby has enjoyed a resurgence this season, leading the league with 41 assists and 56 points. He holds a 10-point lead over Steven Stamkos in the NHL scoring race.
Saturday’s injury could hinder Crosby’s march to the scoring title.
A bloodied Crosby, who did not return to the game, skated off the ice with a towel covering his mouth after Brooks Orpik’s slap shot from the point deflected off a stick and hit the Canadian center just 1:28 into the game.
“When you see the replay, he had no chance to move,” said newly acquired star forward Jarome Iginla, who made his Penguins debut after a blockbuster trade early Thursday morning with the Calgary Flames. “He didn’t see it hit him. It’s a very, very unfortunate play.”
Crosby immediately fell to the ice and tossed his stick in the air. He then went to the hospital for surgery.
“It’s very tough to see that happen to anybody on the ice, but this is your teammate, and Sid’s such a great player and a big part of this team,” Iginla said.
“He’s a tough guy and a competitor. Guys were definitely checking to see how he was doing.”
Pittsburgh still managed to go on to its 15th straight win, moving within two of the NHL record of 17 straight victories set by Mario Lemieux and the 1992-93 Penguins.
The team won behind third-period goals from Matt Cooke and James Neal. Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves. Pittsburgh went 15-0-0 in March, the first perfect month in league history. The Penguins also won a franchise best 12th straight at home.
The record crowd at Consol Energy Center responded with a thunderous ovation when Iginla was announced as part of the starting lineup. Iginla, who played right wing for most of his career in Calgary, skated the left side on a line with reigning NHL scoring champion Evgeni Malkin and Neal, an All-Star forward.
The excitement quickly turned to concern 1:28 into the game when Crosby left the ice.
Pittsburgh appeared stunned without its captain, and the Islanders took advantage, registering the first eight shots of the game, but came up empty against Vokoun.
Vokoun registered second consecutive shutout. It was the third shutout Vokoun has been part of, relieving injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury during a 1-0 victory Tuesday against Montreal.
Vokoun’s biggest save came in the third period while the game was still scoreless, stopping Islanders speedy forward Michael Grabner on a breakaway.
Cooke scored his sixth about a minute later, picking up the rebound from defenseman Deryk Engelland’s shot at the top of the crease, and firing a spinning shot behind Islanders’ goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Neal scored soon after, firing a wrist shot past Nabokov during a two-on-one. It was his 18th goal.
New York, winners of three straight, entered Saturday’s game tied with the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins received the biggest boost from their penalty kill.
Chris Kunitz, the team’s second-leading scorer, was assessed a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct late in the second period for checking Islanders’ center Josh Bailey from behind. Bailey initiated contact, but Kunitz got the better of the play, sending the Islanders’ forward dangerously into the boards. Bailey did not return.
The major penalty turned into a two-man advantage for the Islanders three minutes later when Orpik was whistled for tripping, but Pittsburgh successfully killed off both penalties.
Game notes: Penguins’ defenseman Paul Martin needs surgery on a broken bone and will miss six weeks. The Penguins are already without Kris Letang, the NHL’s leading scorer among defenseman, who is out seven to 10 days with a broken toe. . Orpik appeared in his 621st career game, tying Ron Stackhouse for fifth on the team’s all-time games played list and first among defensemen. . The Penguins conclude a five-game homestand, hosting Buffalo Tuesday, while New York visits New Jersey on Monday.